Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus is a common cause of bacterial meningitis, sepsis, and pneumonia. This bacterium is commonly carried in the back of the nose and throat and spreads from person-to-person through coughing, sneezing and close contact. Transmission and colonization can be harmless, however, pneumococcus can also cause localized disease (e.g.: ear infection, bronchitis), pneumonia (a lung infection that is sometimes invasive) or invasive disease including sepsis (bloodstream infection) or meningitis (infection of the lining around the brain and spinal cord).
Susceptible populations include infants and young children, the elderly, those with serious chronic health problems such as heart disease and diabetes; those with compromised immunity; and certain ethnic groups such as Alaskan Natives and Native Americans.
Since the 1980s, pneumococci have developed increasing resistance to antibiotics used to treat pneumococcal infections. This has been tempered somewhat with introduction of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for children, which prevents many drug-resistant serotypes of pneumococcal disease.
In 2013, there are two vaccines to prevent infection due to Streptococcus pneumoniae. The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) was introduced in 1983 and is recommended for all persons aged 65 years and older, and for many younger persons with chronic medical conditions. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), available since 2010, is recommended for all children beginning at age 2 months.
For a detailed schedule of vaccination recommendations, refer to recommendations published by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) or consult the Georgia Immunization Program.
Antibiotic prophylaxis is not recommended for close contacts of pneumococcal disease patients, because evidence does not support the effectiveness of this practice.