Streptococcus pneumoniae strains causing invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) in the elderly population of England and Wales during the winter of 2003/2004 (1 November 2003 to 30 April 2004) were characterized by serotyping and genotyping in order to determine their population structure in the elderly. Serotyping and multilocus sequence typing (MLST) were carried out on 542 invasive isolates referred to the Respiratory and Systemic Infection Laboratory. Pneumococci were distributed among 32 serotypes and 144 MLST sequence types. A high genetic diversity was observed within the major serotypes. Genetic relatedness varied with regard to serotype. Isolates within serotypes 3, 7F and 8 were the most genetically related whereas serotypes 6A and 19F comprised isolates originating from unrelated ancestors. There was indirect evidence that some pneumococci were derived from clones that had undergone capsular switching in the past. Interestingly one case of IPD was caused by a pneumococcus originating from a clone that had undergone capsular switching from serotype 18C, a serotype included in 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) to serotype 1 (serotype not included in PCV) suggesting that virulent clones with the potential ability to evade PCV existed in the pneumococcal population prior to the routine introduction of this vaccine. Isolates from 28 cases of apparent 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) failure were included but there was no evidence of the emergence of particular clones associated with vaccine failures. Longitudinal studies based on serotypic and genetic characterization of pneumococci are fundamental to understanding the impact of both PPV and PCV on the genetic structure of pneumococcal populations.
- Invasive pneumococcal disease