Each year an estimated 1 million children worldwide die as a result of pneumococcal disease. Worst affected are those in poor countries, but pneumococcal bacteria cause disease and suffering in all age groups and in all countries, including Sweden.
There are currently two types of active vaccine: polysaccharide vaccines, which protect against more types of pneumococcal bacteria but cannot be given to children under the age of two, and conjugated vaccines, which can be given to infants but protect against fewer types.
In his thesis, Erik Backhaus, infection specialist at Skövde Hospital and doctoral student at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy, looks at all cases of serious pneumococcal disease in children and adults in the Västra Götaland region of Sweden between 1998 and 2001. His studies show that the latest conjugated vaccines theoretically offer protection against around 70% of infections. “But around 95% of infections are caused by serotypes covered by the polysaccharide vaccine,” says Backhaus. “This vaccine cannot be administered to children under two years of age, which means that it cannot be used in those who need it most.”
“This may be due to different routines for admitting patients from nursing homes to hospital and how often blood cultures are performed,” he explains.More cases, fewer deaths
It is hoped that the recently introduced pneumococcal vaccination as part of the standard child immunisation programme will reduce the number of infections among both children and adults.The thesis “Invasive Pneumococcal Infections” was successfully defended at the Sahlgrenska Academy’s Institute of Biomedicine on 13 January.
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