How does S pneumoniae colonization affect the incidence of pneumococcal infection in the US?

Updated: Jun 08, 2020
  • Author: Eduardo Sanchez, MD; Chief Editor: John L Brusch, MD, FACP  more...
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S pneumoniae remains an important pathogen in large part because of its ability to first colonize the nasopharynx efficiently. Studies performed in the United States prior to universal vaccination recommendations have shown average carriage rates of 40%-50% in healthy children and 20%-30% in healthy adults. Factors such as age, daycare attendance, composition of household, immune status, antibiotic use, and others obviously affect these numbers. [29, 30, 31] With the implementation of childhood vaccination with the heptavalent conjugate vaccine for S pneumoniae, the colonization rates have decreased in children receiving the vaccine and in adults and other children in their household because of the phenomenon of herd immunity.

Most individuals who are colonized with S pneumoniae carry only a single serotype at any given time; the duration of colonization varies and depends on specific serotype and host characteristics. Invasive disease is usually related to recent acquisition of a new serotype. However, in most healthy hosts, colonization is not associated with symptoms or disease but allows for the continued presence of S pneumoniae within the population, allowing for prolonged low-level transmission among contacts.

S pneumoniae infection is the most common cause of CAP, bacterial meningitis, bacteremia, and otitis media in the United States. There is a clear seasonality, with infections peaking in the fall and winter months. [32]

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