Streptococcus pneumoniae and chronic endobronchial infections in childhood.

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Abstract

Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is the main cause of bacterial pneumonia worldwide and has been studied extensively in this context. However, its role in chronic endobronchial infections and accompanying lower airway neutrophilic infiltration has received little attention. Severe and recurrent pneumonia are risk factors for chronic suppurative lung disease (CSLD) and bronchiectasis; the latter causes considerable morbidity and, in some populations, premature death in children and adults. Protracted bacterial bronchitis (PBB) is another chronic endobronchial infection associated with substantial morbidity. In some children, PBB may progress to bronchiectasis. Although nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae is the main pathogen in PBB, CSLD and bronchiectasis, pneumococci are isolated commonly from the lower airways of children with these diagnoses. Here we review what is known currently about pneumococci in PBB, CSLD and bronchiectasis, including the importance of pneumococcal nasopharyngeal colonization and how persistence in the lower airways may contribute to the pathogenesis of these chronic pulmonary disorders. Antibiotic treatments, particularly long-term azithromycin therapy, are discussed together with antibiotic resistance and the impact of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines. Important areas requiring further investigation are identified, including immune responses associated with pneumococcal lower airway infection, alone and in combination with other respiratory pathogens, and microarray serotyping to improve detection of carriage and infection by multiple serotypes. Genome wide association studies of pneumococci from the upper and lower airways will help identify virulence and resistance determinants, including potential therapeutic targets and vaccine antigens to treat and prevent endobronchial infections. Much work is needed, but the benefits will be substantial.

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