Pneumococcal Serotypes and Mortality following Invasive Pneumococcal Disease: A Population-Based Cohort Study

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Citation: Zitta B. Harboe, Reimar W. Thomsen, Anders Riis, Palle Valentiner-Branth, Jens Jørgen Christensen, Lotte Lambertsen, Karen A. Krogfelt, Helle B. Konradsen, Thomas L. Benfield (2009/05) Pneumococcal Serotypes and Mortality following Invasive Pneumococcal Disease: A Population-Based Cohort Study. PLoS Med (Volume 6) (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000081
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000081
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000081
Internet Archive Scholar (fulltext): Pneumococcal Serotypes and Mortality following Invasive Pneumococcal Disease: A Population-Based Cohort Study
Tagged: Medicine (RSS)

Summary (Abstract)



Pneumococcal diseases—illnesses caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria—are leading causes of illness and death around the world. S. pneumoniae is transmitted through contact with infected respiratory secretions and usually causes noninvasive diseases such as ear infections and bronchitis. Sometimes, however, the bacteria invade the lungs (where they cause pneumonia), the bloodstream (where they cause bacteremia), or the covering of the brain (where they cause meningitis). These invasive pneumococcal diseases (IPDs) are often fatal. One million children die annually from pneumococcal disease, many of them in developing countries. In the developed world, however, IPDs mainly affect elderly people and patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes and alcoholism. Although pneumococcal diseases can sometimes be treated successfully with antibiotics, many patients die or develop long-term complications. Consequently, vaccination with “pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine” (PPV) is recommended for everyone over 65 years old and for people between 2 and 65 years old who are at high risk of developing IPD; vaccination with “pneumococcal conjugate vaccine” (PCV) is recommended for children younger than 2 years old who are at high risk of IPDs.

Why Was This Study Done?

S. pneumoniae is not a single organism. There are actually more than 90 S. pneumoniae variants or “serotypes.” These variants are coated with different polysaccharides (complex sugar molecules) that are, in part, responsible for the deleterious effects of S. pneumonia infections. The same molecules also trigger the human immune response that kills the bacteria. Consequently, pneumococcal vaccines contain polysaccharide mixtures isolated from the S. pneumoniae serotypes responsible for most pneumococcal disease. But are these serotypes also responsible for most of the deaths caused by IPD? Until now, the few studies that have investigated the association between S. pneumoniae serotypes and death from IPD have yielded conflicting results. Here, therefore, the researchers undertook a large population-based study to discover whether there is an association between specific pneumococcal serotypes and death following IPD.

What Did the Researchers Do and Find?

The researchers linked data on the serotype of S. pneumoniae isolates sent to the Danish National Neisseria and Streptococcus Reference Center between 1977 and 2007 with clinical data from national medical databases. After allowing for other factors that might affect a person's likelihood of dying from IPD (for example, age and other illnesses), the researchers used multivariate logistic regression analysis (a statistical approach) to look for associations between S. pneumoniae serotypes and death within 30 days of admission to hospital for pneumococcal bacteremia or meningitis. Overall, 18% of the nearly 19,000 people included in this analysis died within 30 days of hospital admission; among the children younger than 5 years included in the study, the death rate was 3%. Among patients 5 years old or older, nine S. pneumoniae serotypes were associated with a more than 3-fold higher death rate (mostly from bacteremia) than serotype 1, the most common serotype isolated during the study. Interestingly, in young children, a different set of serotypes seemed to be associated with death. However, because so few children died from IPD, this result is statistically uncertain. The researchers' results also show that age, gender, having meningitis, having other illnesses, and alcoholism all affected a patient's chances of dying from IPD.

What Do These Findings Mean?

These findings show that specific pneumococcal serotypes strongly affect the likelihood that a person aged 5 years or over will die within 30 days of admission to hospital with IPD. Importantly, unlike previous studies, this study was large and comprehensive—the Danish surveillance center covers more than 90% of the Danish population—and the researchers carefully took other factors into account that might have affected a patient's chances of dying from IPD. Thus, these new insights into which pneumococcal serotypes are most deadly could help in the design of new pneumococcal vaccines, at least for people aged 5 years or older. For younger children, however, the results are not as informative and a similar study now needs to be done in developing countries, where more young people die from IPD.

The original author of this summary is PLOS Medicine. It is republished on AcaWiki under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

This was published in an open access journal.