Study Defines Scope Of Vaccine-Preventable Infections

Two bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae, are leading causes of meningitis and pneumonia worldwide, and yet both these health foes are easily prevented by available vaccines. These two common vaccines, however, often are not used in less developed countries because health care workers think the diseases they prevent are infrequent or unimportant. Now, a group of investigators from six INCLEN (International Clinical Epidemiology Network) academic hospitals in India, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, have conducted a prospective surveillance study to determine the most common serotypes of these two bacterial causes of meningitis and pneumonia, the characteristics of preventable invasive infections, and their patterns of antimicrobial susceptibility. The results of the four-year study were published in the April 10, 1999, issue of The Lancet.

The study's findings are crucial in formulating vaccines for Asian populations, and in describing antimicrobial resistance patterns. Since the routine use of conjugate vaccines against H. influenzae type-b (Hib) in the United States in 1988, for instance, cases of meningitis have decreased by more than 95 percent, and scientists now believe that adequate vaccine coverage will substantially reduce morbidity and mortality from vaccine-preventable infections (including pneumonia) in the developing world as well.

Mark Steinhoff, M.D., professor, International Health, Pediatrics, and Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said, "The types of infections and levels of drug resistance we have found in India are similar to what have been found in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and may be indicative of patterns in other parts of Asia as well. The international community urgently needs to speed the introduction of vaccines and curb the consumption of antibiotic drugs."

In collaboration with the INCLEN researchers in India, Dr. Steinhoff and his colleagues stud

Contact: Laura M. Kelley
Child Health Research Project

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