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1.  Seasonal Drivers of Pneumococcal Disease Incidence: Impact of Bacterial Carriage and Viral Activity 
The drivers of invasive pneumococcal disease seasonality are unknown. We found that pediatric cases with a pneumonia diagnosis peaked in winter and were associated with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whereas nonpneumonia cases peaked in autumn and were associated with variations in bacterial carriage.
Background. Winter-seasonal epidemics of pneumococcal disease provide an opportunity to understand the drivers of incidence. We sought to determine whether seasonality of invasive pneumococcal disease is caused by increased nasopharyngeal transmission of the bacteria or increased susceptibility to invasive infections driven by cocirculating winter respiratory viruses.
Methods. We analyzed pneumococcal carriage and invasive disease data collected from children <7 years old in the Navajo/White Mountain Apache populations between 1996 and 2012. Regression models were used to quantify seasonal variations in carriage prevalence, carriage density, and disease incidence. We also fit a multivariate model to determine the contribution of carriage prevalence and RSV activity to pneumococcal disease incidence while controlling for shared seasonal factors.
Results. The seasonal patterns of invasive pneumococcal disease epidemics varied significantly by clinical presentation: bacteremic pneumococcal pneumonia incidence peaked in late winter, whereas invasive nonpneumonia pneumococcal incidence peaked in autumn. Pneumococcal carriage prevalence and density also varied seasonally, with peak prevalence occurring in late autumn. In a multivariate model, RSV activity was associated with significant increases in bacteremic pneumonia cases (attributable percentage, 15.5%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8%–26.1%) but was not associated with invasive nonpneumonia infections (8.0%; 95% CI, −4.8% to 19.3%). In contrast, seasonal variations in carriage prevalence were associated with significant increases in invasive nonpneumonia infections (31.4%; 95% CI, 8.8%–51.4%) but not with bacteremic pneumonia.
Conclusions.The seasonality of invasive pneumococcal pneumonia could be due to increased susceptibility to invasive infection triggered by viral pathogens, whereas seasonality of other invasive pneumococcal infections might be primarily driven by increased nasopharyngeal transmission of the bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3871795  PMID: 24190895
pneumococcal; co-infections; RSV; seasonality; pneumonia
2.  Association between Respiratory Syncytial Virus Activity and Pneumococcal Disease in Infants: A Time Series Analysis of US Hospitalization Data 
PLoS Medicine  2015;12(1):e1001776.
Daniel Weinberger and colleagues examine a possible interaction between two serious respiratory infections in children under 2 years of age.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
The importance of bacterial infections following respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) remains unclear. We evaluated whether variations in RSV epidemic timing and magnitude are associated with variations in pneumococcal disease epidemics and whether changes in pneumococcal disease following the introduction of seven-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) were associated with changes in the rate of hospitalizations coded as RSV.
Methods and Findings
We used data from the State Inpatient Databases (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality), including >700,000 RSV hospitalizations and >16,000 pneumococcal pneumonia hospitalizations in 36 states (1992/1993–2008/2009). Harmonic regression was used to estimate the timing of the average seasonal peak of RSV, pneumococcal pneumonia, and pneumococcal septicemia. We then estimated the association between the incidence of pneumococcal disease in children and the activity of RSV and influenza (where there is a well-established association) using Poisson regression models that controlled for shared seasonal variations. Finally, we estimated changes in the rate of hospitalizations coded as RSV following the introduction of PCV7. RSV and pneumococcal pneumonia shared a distinctive spatiotemporal pattern (correlation of peak timing: ρ = 0.70, 95% CI: 0.45, 0.84). RSV was associated with a significant increase in the incidence of pneumococcal pneumonia in children aged <1 y (attributable percent [AP]: 20.3%, 95% CI: 17.4%, 25.1%) and among children aged 1–2 y (AP: 10.1%, 95% CI: 7.6%, 13.9%). Influenza was also associated with an increase in pneumococcal pneumonia among children aged 1–2 y (AP: 3.2%, 95% CI: 1.7%, 4.7%). Finally, we observed a significant decline in RSV-coded hospitalizations in children aged <1 y following PCV7 introduction (−18.0%, 95% CI: −22.6%, −13.1%, for 2004/2005–2008/2009 versus 1997/1998–1999/2000). This study used aggregated hospitalization data, and studies with individual-level, laboratory-confirmed data could help to confirm these findings.
These analyses provide evidence for an interaction between RSV and pneumococcal pneumonia. Future work should evaluate whether treatment for secondary bacterial infections could be considered for pneumonia cases even if a child tests positive for RSV.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Respiratory infections—bacterial and viral infections of the lungs and the airways (the tubes that take oxygen-rich air to the lungs)—are major causes of illness and death in children worldwide. Pneumonia (infection of the lungs) alone is responsible for about 15% of all child deaths. The leading cause of bacterial pneumonia in children is Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is transmitted through contact with infected respiratory secretions. S. pneumoniae usually causes noninvasive diseases such as bronchitis, but sometimes the bacteria invade the lungs, the bloodstream, or the covering of the brain, where they cause pneumonia, septicemia, or meningitis, respectively. These potentially fatal invasive pneumococcal diseases can be treated with antibiotics but can also be prevented by vaccination with pneumococcal conjugate vaccines such as PCV7. The leading cause of viral pneumonia is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is also readily transmitted through contact with infected respiratory secretions. Almost all children have an RSV infection before their second birthday—RSV usually causes a mild cold-like illness. However, some children infected with RSV develop pneumonia and have to be admitted to hospital for supportive care such as the provision of supplemental oxygen; there is no specific treatment for RSV infection.
Why Was This Study Done?
Co-infections with bacteria and viruses can sometimes have a synergistic effect and lead to more severe disease than an infection with either type of pathogen (disease-causing organism) alone. For example, influenza infections increase the risk of invasive pneumococcal disease. But does pneumococcal disease also interact with RSV infection? It is important to understand the interaction between pneumococcal disease and RSV to improve the treatment of respiratory infections in young children, but the importance of bacterial infections following RSV infection is currently unclear. Here, the researchers undertake a time series analysis of US hospitalization data to investigate the association between RSV activity and pneumococcal disease in infants. Time series analysis uses statistical methods to analyze data collected at successive, evenly spaced time points.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
For their analysis, the researchers used data collected between 1992/1993 and 2008/2009 by the State Inpatient Databases on more than 700,000 hospitalizations for RSV and more than 16,000 hospitalizations for pneumococcal pneumonia or septicemia among children under two years old in 36 US states. Using a statistical technique called harmonic regression to measure seasonal variations in disease incidence (the rate of occurrence of new cases of a disease), the researchers show that RSV and pneumococcal pneumonia shared a distinctive spatiotemporal pattern over the study period. Next, using Poisson regression models (another type of statistical analysis), they show that RSV was associated with significant increases (increases unlikely to have happened by chance) in the incidence of pneumococcal disease. Among children under one year old, 20.3% of pneumococcal pneumonia cases were associated with RSV activity; among children 1–2 years old, 10.1% of pneumococcal pneumonia cases were associated with RSV activity. Finally, the researchers report that following the introduction of routine vaccination in the US against S. pneumoniae with PCV7 in 2000, there was a significant decline in hospitalizations for RSV among children under one year old.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide evidence for an interaction between RSV and pneumococcal pneumonia and indicate that RSV is associated with increases in the incidence of pneumococcal pneumonia, particularly in young infants. Notably, the finding that RSV hospitalizations declined after the introduction of routine pneumococcal vaccination suggests that some RSV hospitalizations may have a joint viral–bacterial etiology (cause), although it is possible that PCV7 vaccination reduced the diagnosis of RSV because fewer children were hospitalized with pneumococcal disease and subsequently tested for RSV. Because this is an ecological study (an observational investigation that looks at risk factors and outcomes in temporally and geographically defined populations), these findings do not provide evidence for a causal link between hospitalizations for RSV and pneumococcal pneumonia. The similar spatiotemporal patterns for the two infections might reflect another unknown factor shared by the children who were hospitalized for RSV or pneumococcal pneumonia. Moreover, because pooled hospitalization discharge data were used in this study, these results need to be confirmed through analysis of individual-level, laboratory-confirmed data. Importantly, however, these findings support the initiation of studies to determine whether treatment for bacterial infections should be considered for children with pneumonia even if they have tested positive for RSV.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides information about the respiratory system and about pneumonia
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on all aspects of pneumococcal disease and pneumococcal vaccination, including personal stories and information about RSV infection
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about pneumonia (including a personal story) and about pneumococcal diseases
KidsHealth, a website provided by the US-based non-profit Nemours Foundation, includes information on pneumonia and on RSV (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about pneumonia, RSV infections, and pneumococcal infections (in English and Spanish)
HCUPnet provides aggregated hospitalization data from the State Inpatient Databases used in this study
PMCID: PMC4285401  PMID: 25562317
3.  Using Pneumococcal Carriage Data to Monitor Postvaccination Changes in Invasive Disease 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2013;178(9):1488-1495.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) have been introduced worldwide. However, few developing countries have high-quality surveillance systems available for monitoring vaccine impact. We evaluated whether data from nasopharyngeal carriage studies can be used to accurately monitor post-PCV changes in the incidence of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) among children under 5 years of age. For various dates during 1991–2010, data on nasopharyngeal pneumococcal carriage and on IPD before and after administration of 7-valent PCV (PCV7) were available from England and Wales, the Netherlands, the Navajo and White Mountain Apache American Indian populations, and the US states of Massachusetts and Alaska. We estimated the change in carriage prevalence for each serotype in each study and then either calculated the average change (inverse variance-weighted) among vaccine and nonvaccine serotypes (model 1) or used mixed-effects models to estimate the change for each serotype individually, pooling serotype data within or between studies (models 2 and 3). We then multiplied these values by the proportion of IPD caused by each serotype during the pre-PCV7 period to obtain an estimate of post-PCV7 disease incidence. Model 1 accurately captured overall changes in IPD incidence following PCV7 introduction for most studies, while the more detailed models, models 2 and 3, were less accurate. Carriage data can be used in this simple model to estimate post-PCV changes in IPD incidence.
PMCID: PMC3813314  PMID: 24013204
carriage; conjugate vaccine, pneumococcal; pneumococcus; surveillance; vaccine effectiveness; vaccines
4.  Forecasting Temporal Dynamics of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in Northeast Brazil 
Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is a vector-borne disease of increasing importance in northeastern Brazil. It is known that sandflies, which spread the causative parasites, have weather-dependent population dynamics. Routinely-gathered weather data may be useful for anticipating disease risk and planning interventions.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We fit time series models using meteorological covariates to predict CL cases in a rural region of Bahía, Brazil from 1994 to 2004. We used the models to forecast CL cases for the period 2005 to 2008. Models accounting for meteorological predictors reduced mean squared error in one, two, and three month-ahead forecasts by up to 16% relative to forecasts from a null model accounting only for temporal autocorrelation.
These outcomes suggest CL risk in northeastern Brazil might be partially dependent on weather. Responses to forecasted CL epidemics may include bolstering clinical capacity and disease surveillance in at-risk areas. Ecological mechanisms by which weather influences CL risk merit future research attention as public health intervention targets.
Author Summary
Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is a disease resulting from infection by the Leishmania parasites, which humans may acquire when bitten by an infected sandfly. From a public health standpoint, it is important to identify cases early and monitor patients' clinical outcomes because unsuccessfully-treated patients are at risk for severe complications. Since weather conditions affect survival and reproduction of sandflies that transmit Leishmania, routinely-gathered weather and climate data may be useful for anticipating CL outbreaks, bolstering clinical capacity for high-risk periods, and initiating interventions such as active case-finding during these periods to limit disease burden. Here we assessed whether the number of CL cases occurring per month in a rural region of Bahía, Brazil was associated temperature, humidity, precipitation, and El Niño sea surface temperature oscillation patterns observed during preceding seasons. We formulated models that improved accuracy of one, two, and three month-ahead CL predictions by accounting for weather. Forecasts of this nature can contribute to reducing CL burden by informing resource allocation and intervention planning in preparation for epidemics.
PMCID: PMC4214672  PMID: 25356734
5.  Serotype-Specific Effect of Influenza on Adult Invasive Pneumococcal Pneumonia 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;208(8):1274-1280.
Background. Influenza affects host susceptibility to pneumococcus. We sought to evaluate whether this relationship varies by pneumococcal serotype using a large epidemiological database covering 3 decades.
Methods. Weekly rates of invasive pneumococcal pneumonia (IPP) were obtained from the Danish National Laboratory Surveillance System, and influenza-like illness (ILI) data were collected from Danish sentinel surveillance, Statens Serum Institut, 1977–2007. We fit Poisson regression models for each age and comorbidity group, with predictors for seasonality and secular changes, ILI activity, and serotype.
Results. Among individuals with low levels of comorbidities, influenza had the largest impact on IPP incidence among low-invasiveness serotypes (influenza attributable percent: 17.9%, 95% confidence interval [CI], 13.6–21.9) as compared with high-invasiveness serotypes (6.7%, 95% CI, 3.8%–11.7%). Among those with higher levels of comorbidities, the effect of influenza was smaller, but high-invasiveness serotypes increased more than low-invasiveness serotypes (8.9% [95% CI, 6.6–11.8] vs 1.3% [95% CI, −1.6–5.4].
Conclusions. Influenza was associated with the greatest increases in the incidence of disease caused by serotypes with lower invasive potential and among individuals with low levels of comorbid conditions. The importance of influenza for adult IPP varies by serotype and host comorbidity.
PMCID: PMC3888281  PMID: 23901093
pneumococcus; influenza; coinfection; comorbidity; interaction; regression
6.  Identifying the interaction between influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia using incidence data 
Science translational medicine  2013;5(191):191ra84.
The association between influenza virus and the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) has been proposed as a polymicrobial system, whereby transmission and pathogenicity of one pathogen (bacterium) are affected by interactions with the other (virus). However, studies focusing on different scales of resolution have painted an inconsistent picture: individual-scale animal experiments have unequivocally demonstrated an association, while epidemiological support in human populations is, at best, inconclusive. Here, we integrate weekly incidence reports and a mechanistic transmission model within a likelihood-based inference framework to characterize the nature, timing and magnitude of this interaction. We find support for a strong but short-lived interaction, with influenza infection increasing susceptibility to pneumococcal pneumonia ~100-fold. We infer modest population-level impacts arising from strong processes at the level of an individual, thereby resolving the dichotomy in seemingly inconsistent observations across scales. An accurate characterization of the influenza-pneumococcal interaction can form a basis for more effective clinical care and public health measures for pneumococcal pneumonia.
PMCID: PMC4178309  PMID: 23803706
7.  Influenza Epidemics in Iceland Over 9 Decades: Changes in Timing and Synchrony With the United States and Europe 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2012;176(7):649-655.
Influenza epidemics exhibit a strongly seasonal pattern, with winter peaks that occur with similar timing across temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere. This synchrony could be influenced by population movements, environmental factors, host immunity, and viral characteristics. The historical isolation of Iceland and subsequent increase in international contacts make it an ideal setting to study epidemic timing. The authors evaluated changes in the timing and regional synchrony of influenza epidemics using mortality and morbidity data from Iceland, North America, and Europe during the period from 1915 to 2007. Cross-correlations and wavelet analyses highlighted 2 major changes in influenza epidemic patterns in Iceland: first was a shift from nonseasonal epidemics prior to the 1930s to a regular winter-seasonal pattern, and second was a change in the early 1990s when a 1-month lag between Iceland and the United States and Europe was no longer detectable with monthly data. There was a moderate association between increased synchrony and the number of foreign visitors to Iceland, providing a plausible explanation for the second shift in epidemic timing. This suggests that transportation might have a minor effect on epidemic timing, but efforts to restrict air travel during influenza epidemics would likely have a limited impact, even for island populations.
PMCID: PMC3530371  PMID: 22962250
airline; Iceland; influenza; synchrony; transportation; wavelets
8.  Surface Charge of Streptococcus pneumoniae Predicts Serotype Distribution 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(12):4519-4524.
Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) frequently colonizes the human nasopharynx and is an important cause of pneumonia, meningitis, sinusitis, and otitis media. The outer cell surface of pneumococcus may assume various degrees of negative charge depending on the polysaccharide capsule, of which more than 90 serotypes have been identified. The negative charge of capsular polysaccharides has been proposed to electrostatically repel pneumococci from phagocytic cells, and avoidance of phagocytosis correlates with higher carriage prevalence. We hypothesized that the surface charge of pneumococcus contributes to its success in nasopharyngeal carriage by modulating resistance to phagocyte-mediated killing. Here, we measured the surface charge (zeta potential) of laboratory-constructed strains that share a genetic background but differ in serotype and of clinical strains that differ in serotype and genetic background. A more negative surface charge correlated with higher resistance to nonopsonic killing by human neutrophils in vitro. In addition, a more negative zeta potential was associated with higher carriage prevalence in human populations before and after the widespread use of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine PCV7. We also confirmed that capsule is the major determinant of net surface charge in clinical isolates with diverse backgrounds. We noted that exceptions exist to the idea that a higher magnitude of negative charge predicts higher prevalence. The results indicated that zeta potential is strongly influenced by pneumococcal capsule type but is unlikely to be the only important mechanism by which capsule interacts with host.
PMCID: PMC3837974  PMID: 24082068
9.  Influence of Pneumococcal Vaccines and Respiratory Syncytial Virus on Alveolar Pneumonia, Israel 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2013;19(7):1084-1091.
Postlicensure surveillance of pneumonia incidence can be used to estimate whether pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) affect incidence. We used Poisson regression models that control for baseline seasonality to determine the impact of PCVs and the possible effects of variations in virus activity in Israel on these surveillance estimates. PCV was associated with significant declines in radiologically confirmed alveolar pneumonia (RCAP) among patients <6 months, 6–17 months, and 18–35 months of age (–31% [95% CI –51% to –15%], –41% [95% CI –52 to –32%], and –34% [95% CI –42% to –25%], respectively). Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity was associated with strong increases in RCAP incidence, with up to 44% of cases attributable to RSV among infants <6 months of age and lower but significant impacts in older children. Seasonal variations, particularly in RSV activity, masked the impact of 7-valent PCVs, especially for young children in the first 2 years after vaccine introduction.
PMCID: PMC3713978  PMID: 23763864
pneumococcal conjugate vaccines; pneumonia; RSV; influenza; regression model; surveillance; viruses; Israel; respiratory syncytial virus; alveolar pneumonia
10.  Streptococcus pneumoniae Capsular Serotype Invasiveness Correlates with the Degree of Factor H Binding and Opsonization with C3b/iC3b 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(1):354-363.
Different capsular serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae vary markedly in their ability to cause invasive infection, but the reasons why are not known. As immunity to S. pneumoniae infection is highly complement dependent, variations in sensitivity to complement between S. pneumoniae capsular serotypes could affect invasiveness. We have used 20 capsule-switched variants of strain TIGR4 to investigate whether differences in the binding of the alternative pathway inhibitor factor H (FH) could be one mechanism causing variations in complement resistance and invasive potential between capsular serotypes. Flow cytometry assays were used to assess complement factor binding and complement-dependent neutrophil association for the TIGR4 capsule-switched strains. FH binding varied with the serotype and inversely correlated with the results of factor B binding, C3b/iC3b deposition, and neutrophil association. Differences between strains in FH binding were lost when assays were repeated with pspC mutant strains, and loss of PspC also reduced differences in C3b/iC3b deposition between strains. Median FH binding was high in capsule-switched mutant strains expressing more invasive serotypes, and a principal component analysis demonstrated a strong correlation between serotype invasiveness, high FH binding, and resistance to complement and neutrophil association. Further data obtained with 33 clinical strains also demonstrated that FH binding negatively correlated with C3b/iC3b deposition and that median FH binding was high in strains expressing more invasive serotypes. These data suggest that variations in complement resistance between S. pneumoniae strains and the association of a serotype with invasiveness could be related to capsular serotype effects on FH binding.
PMCID: PMC3536142  PMID: 23147038
11.  Broad antibody and T cell reactivity induced by a pneumococcal whole-cell vaccine 
Vaccine  2012;30(29):4316-4322.
Injecting mice with killed cells of non-capsulated strain RM200 adsorbed on Al(OH)3 (pneumococcal whole-cell vaccine; WCV) reduces nasopharyngeal colonization by capsular serotype 6B and prevents fatal aspiration pneumonia by serotype 3 or serotype 5 strains. To further examine the potential for omni-strain immunity, we here examined a panel of clinical isolates and a library of capsule-switch variants in the TIGR4 background. IgG binding to these bacteria in sera of rabbits injected with WCV or Al(OH)3 alone was assayed by ELISA without and with adsorption with cell-wall polysaccharide, a species-common antigen. The examined strains were 23 primary isolates including at least 10 different MLS types and 13 serotypes; 15 of these strains were invasive isolates, subsequently mouse-passed. Additionally, to investigate the effect of capsulation, TIGR4 strain constructs with the capsulation genes of 20 different serotypes was evaluated. In ELISA all strains showed a large difference in IgG binding due to the immunization, of which most of the antibody typically was not adsorbed and presumably directed to exposed protein antigens. Increased binding of IgG in the WCV-immunized serum to the 20 isogenic capsule-switch strains was shown also by flow cytometry. Further, all these 20 strains elicited IL-17A in T cells of WCV-vaccinated mice, a cytokine known to accelerate pneumococcal clearance. Thus WCV induced both humoral and TH17 cell-mediated immunity against all tested strains.
PMCID: PMC3372861  PMID: 22682288
Streptococcus pneumoniae; vaccine; colonization; sepsis; IL-17; serotype-independence; species-common antigen
12.  Estimating rates of carriage acquisition and clearance and competitive ability for pneumococcal serotypes in Kenya with a Markov transition model 
Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.)  2012;23(4):510-519.
There are more than 90 serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae, with varying biologic and epidemiologic properties. Animal studies suggest that carriage induces an acquired immune response that reduces duration of colonization in a non-serotype-specific fashion.
We studied pneumococcal nasopharyngeal carriage longitudinally in Kenyan children aged 3-59 months, following up positive swabs at days 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32, and then monthly thereafter until two swabs were negative for the original serotype. As previously reported, 1868/2840 (66%) of children swabbed at baseline were positive. We estimated acquisition, clearance and competition parameters for 27 serotypes using a Markov transition model .
Point estimates of type-specific acquisition rates ranged from 0.00025/day (type 1) to 0.0031/day (type 19F). Point estimates of time to clearance (inverse of type-specific immune clearance rate) ranged from 28 days (type 20) to 124 days (type 6A). For the serotype most resistant to competition (type 19F), acquisition of other serotypes was 52% less likely (95% confidence interval= 37%-63%) than in an uncolonized host. Fitness components (carriage duration, acquisition rate, lack of susceptibility to competition) were positively correlated with each other and with baseline prevalence, and were associated with biologic properties previously shown to associate with serotype. Duration of carriage declined with age for most serotypes.
Common S. pneumoniae serotypes appear superior in many dimensions of fitness. Differences in rate of immune clearance are attenuated as children age and become capable of more rapid clearance of the longest-lived serotypes. These findings provide information for comparison after introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.
PMCID: PMC3670084  PMID: 22441543
13.  Impact of the 2009 Influenza Pandemic on Pneumococcal Pneumonia Hospitalizations in the United States 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;205(3):458-465.
(See the editorial commentary by Grijalva and Griffin on pages 355–7.)
Background. Infection with influenza virus increases the risk for developing pneumococcal disease. The A/H1N1 influenza pandemic in autumn 2009 provided a unique opportunity to evaluate this relationship.
Methods. Using weekly age-, state-, and cause-specific hospitalizations from the US State Inpatient Databases of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project 2003–2009, we quantified the increase in pneumococcal pneumonia hospitalization rates above a seasonal baseline during the pandemic period.
Results. We found a significant increase in pneumococcal hospitalizations from late August to mid-December 2009, which corresponded to the timing of highest pandemic influenza activity. Individuals aged 5–19 years, who have a low baseline level of pneumococcal disease, experienced the largest relative increase in pneumococcal hospitalizations (ratio, 1.6 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 1.4–1.7]), whereas the largest absolute increase was observed among individuals aged 40–64 years. In contrast, there was no excess disease in the elderly. Geographical variation in the timing of excess pneumococcal hospitalizations matched geographical patterns for the fall pandemic influenza wave.
Conclusions. The 2009 influenza pandemic had a significant impact on the rate of pneumococcal pneumonia hospitalizations, with the magnitude of this effect varying between age groups and states, mirroring observed variations in influenza activity.
PMCID: PMC3276240  PMID: 22158564
14.  Serotype replacement in disease following pneumococcal vaccination: A discussion of the evidence 
Lancet  2011;378(9807):1962-1973.
Vaccination with the protein-polysaccharide conjugate vaccine, PCV7, has significantly reduced the burden of pneumococcal disease in populations where it is in widespread use and has had an important public health benefit. This vaccine targets only 7 of the more than 92 pneumococcal serotypes, and there have been concerns that the non-vaccine serotypes (NVTs) could increase in prevalence and reduce the benefits of vaccination. Indeed, among asymptomatic carriers, the prevalence of NVTs has increased substantially, and as a result, there has been little or no net change in the carriage prevalence of the bacteria. In many populations, there has been an increase in pneumococcal disease caused by NVT, but in most cases this increase in NVT disease has been less than the increase in NVT carriage. In this article, we review the evidence for serotype replacement in carriage and disease and address the surveillance biases that might affect these findings. We then discuss possible reasons for the discrepancy between near-complete replacement in carriage and partial replacement for disease, and address the possibility that differences in invasiveness between vaccine serotypes and those causing replacement could contribute to this difference. We contend that the magnitude of serotype replacement in disease can be attributed, in part, to a combination of lower invasiveness of the replacing serotypes, biases in the pre-vaccine carriage data (unmasking), and biases in the disease surveillance systems that could underestimate the true amount of replacement. We conclude by discussing the potential for serotype replacement in disease in the future and the need for ongoing surveillance.
PMCID: PMC3256741  PMID: 21492929
15.  Prediction of serotypes causing invasive pneumococcal disease in unvaccinated and vaccinated populations 
Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.)  2011;22(2):199-207.
Before the introduction of the heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevnar-7), the relative prevalence of serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae was fairly stable worldwide. We sought to develop a statistical tool to predict the relative frequency of different serotypes among disease isolates in the pre- and post-Prevnar-7 eras using the limited amount of data that is widely available.
We initially used pre-Prevnar-7 carriage prevalence and estimates of invasiveness derived from case-fatality data as predictors for the relative abundance of serotypes causing invasive pneumococcal disease during the pre- and post-Prevnar-7 eras, using negative binomial regression. We fit the model to pre-Prevnar-7 invasive pneumococcal disease data from England and Wales and used these data to (1) evaluate the performance of the model using several datasets and (2) evaluate the utility of the country-specific carriage data. We then fit an alternative model that used polysaccharide structure, a correlate of prevalence that does not require country-specific information and could be useful in determining the post-vaccine population structure, as a predictor.
Predictions from the initial model fit data from several pediatric populations in the pre-Prevnar-7 era. Following the introduction of Prevnar-7, the model still had a good negative predictive value, though substantial unexplained variation remained. The alternative model had a good negative predictive value but poor positive predictive value. Both models demonstrate that the pneumococcal population follows a somewhat predictable pattern even after vaccination.
This approach provides a preliminary framework to evaluate the potential patterns and impact of serotypes causing invasive pneumococcal disease.
PMCID: PMC3142570  PMID: 21646962
16.  Risk of death from pneumococcal pneumonia is a stable serotype-associated property: a meta-analysis 
The 92 capsular serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae differ greatly in nasopharyngeal carriage prevalence, invasiveness and disease incidence. There has been some debate, though, as to whether serotype independently affects the outcome of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD). Published studies have shown variable results with regards to case-fatality ratios for specific serotypes and the role of host factors in affecting these relationships. We evaluated whether risk of death from IPD is a stable serotype-associated property across studies, and then compared the pooled effect estimates with epidemiologic and biological correlates.
We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of serotype-specific disease outcome for pneumonia and meningitis cases. Study-specific estimates of risk of death (risk ratio, RR) were pooled from 9 studies that provided serotype-specific data on pneumonia and meningitis using a random-effects method with serotype 14 as the reference. Pooled RRs were compared to RRs from adult cases with low co-morbidity scores to evaluate potential confounding by host factors.
There were significant differences in the RR estimates between serotypes among bacteremic pneumonia cases. Overall, types 1, 7F and 8 were associated with decreased RRs and types 3, 6A, 6B, 9N and 19F were associated with increased RRs. Outcomes among meningitis cases did not differ significantly between types. Serotypes with increased RRs tended to have a high carriage prevalence, low invasiveness, and were more heavily encapsulated in vitro. These results suggest that IPD outcome, like other epidemiologic measures, is a stable serotype-associated property.
PMCID: PMC2927802  PMID: 20715907
Serotype; pneumococcus; case-fatality ratio; mortality; capsule; meta-analysis
17.  Expression of the Helicobacter pylori adhesin SabA is controlled via phase variation and the ArsRS signal transduction system 
Microbiology (Reading, England)  2008;154(Pt 8):2231-2240.
Adaptation to the acidic microenvironment and adherence to mucosal epithelium are essential for persistent colonization of the human stomach by Helicobacter pylori. The expression of SabA, an adhesin implicated in the ability of H. pylori to adhere to the host gastric epithelium, can be modulated by phase variation via slipped-strand mispairing in repetitive nucleotide tracts located in both the promoter and coding regions. This study demonstrates the occurrence of phase variation at the sabA locus within individual strains of H. pylori and among multiple isolates from a single patient. In addition, transcription of SabA is repressed by the acid-responsive ArsRS two-component signal transduction system in vitro. Our results demonstrate that isogenic inactivation of the arsS (jhp0151/HP0165) histidine kinase locus results in a ten-fold, SabA-dependent increase in adherence to gastric epithelial cells in strain J99 (contains in-frame sabA allele) but not in strain 26695 (out-of-frame sabA allele). The combination of transcriptional regulation of the sabA locus by the ArsRS two-component signal transduction system and the generation of subpopulations harboring alternate sabA alleles by slipped-strand mispairing during chromosomal replication could permit H. pylori to rapidly adapt to varying microenvironments or host immune responses. As a pathogen with a paucity of regulatory proteins, this dual regulation indicates that SabA expression is a tightly regulated process in H. pylori infection.
PMCID: PMC2715451  PMID: 18667556
18.  Pneumococcal Capsular Polysaccharide Structure Predicts Serotype Prevalence 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(6):e1000476.
There are 91 known capsular serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae. The nasopharyngeal carriage prevalence of particular serotypes is relatively stable worldwide, but the host and bacterial factors that maintain these patterns are poorly understood. Given the possibility of serotype replacement following vaccination against seven clinically important serotypes, it is increasingly important to understand these factors. We hypothesized that the biochemical structure of the capsular polysaccharides could influence the degree of encapsulation of different serotypes, their susceptibility to killing by neutrophils, and ultimately their success during nasopharyngeal carriage. We sought to measure biological differences among capsular serotypes that may account for epidemiological patterns. Using an in vitro assay with both isogenic capsule-switch variants and clinical carriage isolates, we found an association between increased carriage prevalence and resistance to non-opsonic neutrophil-mediated killing, and serotypes that were resistant to neutrophil-mediated killing tended to be more heavily encapsulated, as determined by FITC-dextran exclusion. Next, we identified a link between polysaccharide structure and carriage prevalence. Significantly, non-vaccine serotypes that have become common in vaccinated populations tend to be those with fewer carbons per repeat unit and low energy expended per repeat unit, suggesting a novel biological principle to explain patterns of serotype replacement. More prevalent serotypes are more heavily encapsulated and more resistant to neutrophil-mediated killing, and these phenotypes are associated with the structure of the capsular polysaccharide, suggesting a direct relationship between polysaccharide biochemistry and the success of a serotype during nasopharyngeal carriage and potentially providing a method for predicting serotype replacement.
Author Summary
Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus, is an important pathogen worldwide and causes a wide range of diseases, mostly in young children and the elderly. There are 91 serotypes of pneumococcus, each of which produces a unique polysaccharide, called the capsule, that attaches to the bacterial surface and prevents it from being cleared by the host. The serotypes differ greatly in their prevalence in the human population. There is currently a vaccine, effective in infancy, which targets seven clinically important serotypes, but several types not covered by the vaccine are beginning to increase in carriage frequency. As a result, it is critical to understand why some serotypes are frequently carried in the human population while others are not. In this study, we find that the high-prevalence serotypes tend to be more heavily encapsulated and more resistant to killing by neutrophils. Significantly, we find that the biochemical properties of the different polysaccharides can be used to predict their carriage frequency both before and after introduction of the vaccine. These results provide a biologically plausible explanation for differences in prevalence between serotypes.
PMCID: PMC2689349  PMID: 19521509
19.  Expression of the Helicobacter pylori adhesin SabA is controlled via phase variation and the ArsRS signal transduction system 
Microbiology  2008;154(Pt 8):2231-2240.
Adaptation to the acidic microenvironment, and adherence to mucosal epithelium, are essential for persistent colonization of the human stomach by Helicobacter pylori. The expression of SabA, an adhesin implicated in the ability of H. pylori to adhere to the host gastric epithelium, can be modulated by phase variation via slipped-strand mispairing in repetitive nucleotide tracts located in both the promoter region and the coding region. This study demonstrates the occurrence of phase variation at the sabA locus within individual strains of H. pylori, and among multiple isolates from a single patient. In addition, transcription of sabA is repressed by the acid-responsive ArsRS two-component signal transduction system in vitro. Our results demonstrate that isogenic inactivation of the arsS (jhp0151/HP0165) histidine kinase locus results in a 10-fold SabA-dependent increase in adherence to gastric epithelial cells in strain J99 (contains an in-frame sabA allele), but not in strain 26695 (out-of-frame sabA allele). The combination of transcriptional regulation of the sabA locus by the ArsRS two-component signal-transduction system and the generation of subpopulations harbouring alternate sabA alleles by slipped-strand mispairing during chromosomal replication could permit H. pylori to rapidly adapt to varying microenvironments or host immune responses. As a pathogen with a paucity of regulatory proteins, this dual regulation indicates that SabA expression is a tightly regulated process in H. pylori infection.
PMCID: PMC2715451  PMID: 18667556

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