Background: Approximately half of otherwise healthy adults with invasive pneumococcal disease are cigarette smokers. We conducted a population-based case-control study to assess the importance of cigarette smoking and other factors as risk factors for pneumococcal infections.
Methods: We identified immunocompetent patients who were 18 to 64 years old and who had invasive pneumococcal disease (as defined by the isolation of Streptococcus pneumoniae from a normally sterile site) by active surveillance of laboratories in metropolitan Atlanta, Baltimore, and Toronto. Telephone interviews were conducted with 228 patients and 301 control subjects who were reached by random-digit dialing.
Results: Fifty-eight percent of the patients and 24 percent of the control subjects were current smokers. Invasive pneumococcal disease was associated with cigarette smoking (odds ratio, 4.1; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.4 to 7.3) and with passive smoking among nonsmokers (odds ratio, 2.5; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.2 to 5.1) after adjustment by logistic-regression analysis for age, study site, and independent risk factors such as male sex, black race, chronic illness, low level of education, and living with young children who were in day care. There were dose-response relations for the current number of cigarettes smoked per day, pack-years of smoking, and time since quitting. The adjusted population attributable risk was 51 percent for cigarette smoking, 17 percent for passive smoking, and 14 percent for chronic illness.
Conclusions: Cigarette smoking is the strongest independent risk factor for invasive pneumococcal disease among immunocompetent, nonelderly adults. Because of the high prevalence of smoking and the large population attributable risk, programs to reduce both smoking and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke have the potential to reduce the incidence of pneumococcal disease.