Pneumococcal sepsis and nasopharyngeal carriage

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Purpose of reviewStreptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus) remains an important cause of invasive disease including bacteraemia. This review highlights recent findings related to pneumococcal bacteraemia, virulence factors, and multiple colonization, including strain competition, biofilm formation, and competence.Recent findingsCountries with no vaccination programmes see vaccine serotypes still prevalent in disease, whereas the emergence of nonvaccine serotypes in nasopharyngeal carriage and invasive disease is seen in countries with conjugate vaccination in place. Co-colonizing strains are being uncovered with more sensitive methods, and may act synergistically or compete with each other for survival. Several factors such as iron uptake, quorum signalling and the luxS gene, involved in colonization and virulence, are discussed. The role of quorum sensing signalling molecules and formation of biofilms are being explored.SummaryEpidemiological data suggest that the latest serotype-based conjugate vaccines should provide heightened protection, although serotype replacement is now being seen. Much remains to be elucidated about its biology during multiple colonization, when evolution and adaptation to its host take place. The modes of colonization (biofilm, intracellular or surface adherence to the mucosal epithelium), and whether organisms that cause invasive disease have attenuated ability to colonize the nasopharynx remain to be elucidated.

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