Objectives: To assess risk factors for nasopharyngeal carriage of Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis in a large sample of healthy children.
Methods: In this point prevalence survey nasopharyngeal specimens were obtained from 1723 healthy children, ages 1 to 7 years, attending day-care centers or schools in 18 Italian cities. Written questionnaires for obtaining information about the demographics and medical history of the children were completed by the parents in the presence of a pediatrician.
Results: The overall carrier rate of respiratory pathogens was 17.9% (S. pneumoniae, 3.5%; H. influenzae, 11.9%; M. catarrhalis, 4.1%). Only 5% of S. pneumoniae strains were penicillin-resistant whereas approximately 40% were erythromycin-resistant. Beta-lactamase production was found in 5.8% of H. influenzae and 88.7% of M. catarrhalis isolates. By multivariate analysis age (< or = 3 years), having older siblings, a history of prolonged full-time day-care attendance and living in a rural area significantly influenced the odds of carrying nasopharyngeal respiratory pathogens, particularly in children ages 1 to 5 years. Sex, breastfeeding, passive smoking and recent upper respiratory tract infections were not significant variables. Antibiotic treatment in the previous 3 months did not affect nasopharyngeal carriage, whereas repeated treatments with a macrolide were associated with carriage of S. pneumoniae.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that there is a strong and long term relationship between exposure to large numbers of children in the first years of life and nasopharyngeal carriage of all respiratory pathogens. In addition antimicrobial restrictive guidelines should be tailored to local microbiologic sceneries.