Bronchopneumonia: The Disease that Caused the Death of Rock Legend Freddie Mercury

Today is supposedly Freddie Mercury’s 65th birthday. So as a tribute, Google Doodle honored him by providing an animated video that appears over the Google logo featuring one of Queen’s greatest hits “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

Freddie Mercury, the lead vocalist of rock band Queen, is just one of the few rock legends that I love. His ostentatious stage character and powerful vocals over a four-octave range made him famous around the globe. He was also a popular songwriter who composed some of Queen’s hit songs like Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen, Somebody to Love, Don’t Stop Me Now, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and We Are the Champion. In addition to his work, Mercury also led a solo career and occasionally served as a producer and guest musicians to other artists.

Despite his successful career in music industry, Freddie Mercury left his avid fans so soon. He died on November 24, 1991 at the age of 45 due to bronchopneumonia. According to medical doctors who are primarily authorized to use the littmann stethoscope, such disease that caused Freddie Mercury’s early death was induced by HIV/AIDS.

The Disease that Causes Freddie Mercury’s Death

Bronchopneumonia is an acute inflammation of the lungs caused by bacteria and considered as one of the most common death causing diseases brought by infection. The bacteria that primarily affect the bronchi (air passages of the lungs) and alveoli (air sacs) are usually acquired in the community. The most common bacteria that cause pneumonia are called streptococcus pneumoniae. But there are also other types of bacteria that could induce the said disease and this includes mycoplasma pneumoniae, haemophilus influenza, moraxella catarrhalis, and chlamydia pneumoniae.

The photos below compare the appearance of a healthy person’s lungs and the lungs of a person with bronchopneumonia.

each healthy lung, which is 10-14 inches long, appears pink and sponge-like. the whole lungs have 2 large air passages called bronchi that lead to the right and left lung, 22 smaller tubes to reach the 100,000 very smallest tubes, and 1,000,00o alveoli or air sacs that looks like a cluster of grapes.

this is a closer view of lung that is infected by streptococcus pneumoniae, which invade the spaces between cells and between alveoli or air sacs through connecting pores.

How does Bronchopneumonia occur?

diagram source:

Bacteria causing bronchopneumonia are usually transmitted through airborne droplets. When the bacteria from airborne droplets are inhaled by a person, they will reside in the upper respiratory tract such as nose, mouth, and sinuses. From that location, it is very easy for the bacteria to reach the alveoli and damage the spaces between air sacs through connecting pores as well as the spaces between cells. The invasion of bacteria causing bronchopneumonia induces the immune system to send neutrophils (a defensive white blood cell) to the lungs, which engulf and kill the offending organisms. Aside from that, cytokines are also released and this leads to general activation of the immune system. The neutrophils, bacteria, and fluid from surrounding blood vessels fill the alveoli and hinder oxygenation. And this abnormal transport of oxygen will result to death.

Risk Factors and Prevention

People who are at risk for this type of bacterial pneumonia are usually adults; those who are smoking; people with immunologic deficiency syndrome (which is the case of Mercury); and individuals who have long-term health conditions like heart failure, liver failure, diabetes, or lung disease.

In terms of preventative measure, this disease can now be avoided through vaccines like Pneumovax and Pnu-immune. These vaccines, which are intended for adults, help prevent infections caused by streptococcus pneumoniae. Meanwhile for children, a vaccine called Prevnar is also given for the prevention of pneumococcal disease.

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