Supplementing traditional antimicrobial therapy with corticosteroids may help speed up recovery for people with pneumonia. A new study from the University of Texas Southwestern showed that mice infected with M pneumoniae bacterium that were treated with steroids and antibiotics recovered faster and had less inflammation in their lungs than mice treated with antibiotics alone.

“Some people might think that if you give steroids, it would counteract the effect of the antibiotic,” says senior author Robert Hardy, MD. “But it turns out you need the antibiotic to kill the bug and the steroid to make the inflammation in the lung from the infection get better. The steroids don’t kill the bugs, but they do help restore health.”

To conduct the study mice were infected with the M pneumoniae bacterium and then treated daily with a placebo, an antibiotic, a steroid, or a combination of the antibiotic and the steroid. The mice were evaluated after 1, 3, and 6 days.

“It turns out that the group that got both the antibiotic and the steroids did the best. The inflammation in their lungs got significantly better,” says Hardy.

The researchers believe it is too early to recommend steroids as standard treatment for people with this type of bacterial pneumonia.

“The good thing about our results is the data alone support moving on to a clinical study,” says Hardy.