Pneumococci, or Streptococcus pneumoniae, are bacteria that colonize the nose and throat, often without causing harm. When they do cause infection, however, it can be serious, sometimes resulting in pneumonia that could be fatal to people who are elderly or vulnerable due to other illnesses.
Researchers from Pennsylvania, Texas, and New Jersey analyzed data from nearly 63,000 patients hospitalized for pneumonia between 1999 and 2003. Twelve percent of the patients were known to have received pneumococcal vaccination prior to being hospitalized, 23 percent were unvaccinated, and the rest had unknown vaccine status.
Vaccinated patients were 40 to 70 percent less likely to die during hospitalization than either unvaccinated patients or patients with unknown status. Vaccinated patients also had a lower risk of developing respiratory failure, kidney failure, heart attack, or other ailments. In addition, vaccinated patients' average hospital stay was two days shorter than that of unvaccinated patients.
Adult pneumococcal vaccination is somewhat controversial, according to lead author David Fisman, MD, of Princeton University, because "it's been very hard to show that it prevents pneumonia, especially in older adults." However, the benefits of vaccination seem evident in the new study. "When people hit the door really sick and most likely to die, even in those people, being vaccinated was associated with a lower risk of death," Dr. Fisman said. The pneumococcal vaccine impairs the development of a serious condition called bacteremia, or bacterial i
Contact: Steve Baragona
Infectious Diseases Society of America