Pneumococcal infections are defined as invasive or non-invasive according to which area of the body is affected. Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) is caused by infection of normally sterile sites, for example, blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
IPD is a major cause of morbidity and mortality, especially amongst:
- the very young
- the elderly
- those with impaired immunity
Non-invasive forms of the infection commonly cause:
- middle ear infection (otitis media)
- worsening of bronchitis
As with most infectious respiratory diseases, the numbers of cases of pneumococcal infection peak during winter. Up to 50% of people can carry pneumococci in their nose and throat without developing serious infection.
Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) is the bacterium responsible for causing pneumococcal infection and is characterised by its outer coat, known as capsular polysaccharide. Different capsular types can be distinguished via a process known as serotyping. There are about 90 different types of pneumococci, about a quarter of which cause serious illness.
For public information on pneumococcal disease, visit NHS inform.
- For more information on pneumococcal immunisation, including updates, please refer to thePublic Health England (PHE) Green Book, Chapter 25.
- For information on the health protection management of pneumococcal disease clusters please visit the Public Health England website.
For all infection prevention and control guidance visit the A-Z pathogens section of the National Infection and Prevention Control Manual.
Data and surveillance
Invasive Pneumococcal Disease (IPD) surveillance is based on local and reference laboratory reports confirming isolation of S. pneumoniae from sterile body sites, mainly blood and CSF. In 1999, the Scottish Pneumococcal Invasive Disease Enhanced Reporting (SPIDER) scheme was introduced. The enhanced surveillance scheme is jointly managed with the Scottish Haemophilus, Legionella, Meningococcus and Pneumococcus Reference Laboratory (SHLMPRL) and data from SPIDER informs the epidemiology of IPD in Scotland.
Surveillance update for January to March 2019
Figure 1 presents cumulative IPD cases between 2008 and the first quarter of 2019. During weeks 1 to 13 of 2019, 223 cases of IPD were reported to SPIDER. This is comparable to the number of cases for the same period in the previous three years, which ranged from 205 to 226.
Figure 2 shows information on cases reported between January and March 2019 and indicates that IPD continues to occur more frequently in older age groups:
- 111 (49.8%) were 65 years and older
- 88 (39.5%) were 35 to 64 years old
- eight (3.6%) were 15 to 34 years old
- two (0.9%) were 5 to 14 years old
- 14 (6.3%) were under five years old, of whom 13 were under the age of two
IPD in children under five years old
Of the IPD cases reported between January and March 2019, 14 were in children under five years of age and eligible for PCV13 vaccination, which is similar to the number of cases for the same period in 2018. Serotypes detected in children aged under five years for the first quarter of 2019 are shown in Table 1.
|Serotype||Less than or equal to 2 months||3 to 11 months||1 year||2 years||3 years||4 years||Total under 5 years|
Enhanced surveillance questionnaires were returned for all cases aged under five years reported between January and March 2019. Pneumonia and septicaemia were the most common presentations. Other presentations included meningitis, arthritis and pleural empyema.
Of the 14 cases:
- two (14.3%) were known to have an underlying risk factor
- 11 (78.6%) are known to have been discharged alive
- three (21.4%) cases were not yet discharged when the form was completed
Circulating serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae
All IPD isolates and specimens should be sent to the reference laboratory for further typing and antimicrobial sensitivities. Typing results were available for 181 of the 223 cases reported in 2018 (81.2%).
The most common serotypes reported were:
- 8 (46 cases)
- 9N (15 cases)
- 12F (15 cases)
- 19A (15 cases)
- 3 (11 cases)
A total of 36 cases (16.1%) were caused by serotypes included in PCV13 vaccine, 35 of whom were aged five years or older. There was one PCV13 vaccine serotype case aged under five years. This case was infected with serotype 19A, and had received two doses of PCV13 vaccine.
Two pneumococcal vaccines are available that help to protect against pneumococcal disease.
The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, PPV23, is recommended for many of the same people who receive an annual flu vaccination. Unlike the flu vaccine which is given every year, the pneumococcal vaccine is only usually given once. In 2003, the pneumococcal vaccination for all people aged 65 years and over was introduced, in addition to those aged under 65, with certain underlying conditions. This vaccine offers protection against 23 serotypes of IPD.
In September 2006, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine PCV7 was introduced into the routine childhood immunisation schedule. In spring 2010, PCV7 was replaced with PCV13 to provide broader protection against more serotypes of S. pneumoniae. PCV13 vaccine follows the same three dose immunisation schedule at eight and 16 weeks of age followed by a booster at 12 to 13 months. PCV13 offers protection against the following 13 serotypes of S. pneumoniae:
To coincide with the introduction of PCV7, enhanced surveillance was established for children under five years of age.
Vaccine uptake statistics
Vaccine uptake statistics are available from the Information Services Division (ISD) website.