Pneumococcus, Pneumococcal Disease, and Prevention.

Katherine L. O'Brien, Meena Ramakrishnan, Adam Finn, Richard Malley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


First isolated in 1880 by Pasteur in the saliva of a patient with rabies, Strep-
tococcus pneumoniae (also known as the pneumococcus) has been branded as
the “captain of the men of death” by William Osler, for the nefarious role this
organism plays in causing the demise of so many people particularly among the
elderly. While certainly evocative, this description does not fully capture the in-
tricate interaction between the pneumococcus bacteria and its human host, one
characterized by repeated and persistent nasopharyngeal colonization events that start at the earliest age and can be documented throughout life. In the context of this relatively friendly coexistence, the pathology caused by this bacterium, which ranges from relatively benign (though thoroughly unpleasant) mucosal infections like otitis media and sinusitis to serious and potentially fatal conditions such as pneumonia, bacteremia, and meningitis, are relatively rare events in the host–pathogen relationship. Along with the great apes, humans are the main natural host for the pneumococcus; when other mammals develop pneumococcal disease, they are usually animals in captivity and acquire the organism through their handlers. The bacterium’s relatively limited host range creates the potential for effective control by vaccination and it is precisely through the ability of newer vaccines to prevent or reduce the likelihood of nasopharyngeal colonization that the greatest impact on prevention of pneumococcal disease has been achieved.
In this chapter, we review the organism, pathogenesis, and epidemiology of
pneumococcal disease, as well as recent and potential future advances in im-
munization strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Vaccine Book. Second edition.
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)978-0-12-802174-3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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