Haemophilus influenza bacteria, referred to as H. flu, is a misnomer because it does not cause the flu. It does, however, cause bacterial infections such as pneumonia. According to “Principles and Practice of Medicine," 10 to 15 percent of all community-acquired pneumonia cases are the result of the H. flu bacterium. Community-acquired pneumonia is pneumonia that is acquired outside of a hospital setting. Symptoms of H. flu pneumonia are fever, productive cough and shortness of breath. Treatment consists of third-generation cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones and beta-lactam pencillins.
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Multiple generations of development have led to currently used cephalosporins. Cephalosporins without broad bacterial coverage were first-generation cephalosporins. Effects on multiple bacteria increased in later third-generation cephalosporins. Drugs such as ciprofloxacin, ceftriaxone and cefotaxime are effective against H. flu. Patients who are penicillin allergic should discuss the use of cephalosporins with their physician before taking the drugs, as there can be some cross-sensitivity. Diarrhea, stomach upset and nausea are side effects of the cephalosporins.
Drug resistance is an ever-present problem in the treatment of bacterial infections. The fluoroquinolones were developed to treat infections resistant to cephalosporins. According to the drug database Drugs.com, both ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin are effective against H. flu pneumonia. Levofloxacin, known by the trade name Levaquin, is a once-daily medication that patients take orally to treat H. flu pneumonia. Patients can take ciprofloxacin, or Cipro, every 12 hours, and it is also an oral medication. Patients taking fluoroquinolones are at risk for developing tendonitis or tendon rupture as a side effect. Those at increased risk for this side effect include transplant patients, people who use steroid medications and patients older than 60.
H. flu has mutated in response to antibiotics. Some H. flu bacteria emit an enzyme called beta-lactamase, which renders penicillin ineffective. Some penicillins have an added beta-lactamase inhibitor to treat the mutated bacteria. Ampicillin and sulbactam, known as Unasyn; ticarcillin and clavulanate, sold as Timentin; and piperacillin and tazobactam, or Zosyn, are all penicillins with beta-lactamase inhibitors. Doctors administer these medications by intravenous injection. Side effects can include diarrhea, headache, stomach upset and vomiting. Patients who are allergic to penicillin should not take these medications.