Background: Since the last British study of the microbial aetiology of community acquired pneumonia (CAP) about 20 years ago, new organisms have been identified (for example, Chlamydia pneumoniae), new antibiotics introduced, and fresh advances made in microbiological techniques. Pathogens implicated in CAP in adults admitted to hospital in the UK using modern and traditional microbiological investigations are described.
Methods: Adults aged 16 years and over admitted to a teaching hospital with CAP over a 12 month period from 4 October 1998 were prospectively studied. Samples of blood, sputum, and urine were collected for microbiological testing by standard culture techniques and new serological and urine antigen detection methods.
Results: Of 309 patients admitted with CAP, 267 fulfilled the study criteria; 135 (50.6%) were men and the mean (SD) age was 65.4 (19.6) years. Aetiological agents were identified from 199 (75%) patients (one pathogen in 124 (46%), two in 53 (20%), and three or more in 22 (8%)): Streptococcus pneumoniae 129 (48%), influenza A virus 50 (19%), Chlamydia pneumoniae 35 (13%), Haemophilus influenzae 20 (7%), Mycoplasma pneumoniae 9 (3%), Legionella pneumophilia 9 (3%), other Chlamydia spp 7 (2%), Moraxella catarrhalis 5 (2%), Coxiella burnetii 2 (0.7%), others 8 (3%). Atypical pathogens were less common in patients aged 75 years and over than in younger patients (16% v 27%; OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.3 to 0.9). The 30 day mortality was 14.9%. Mortality risk could be stratified by the presence of four "core" adverse features. Three of 60 patients (5%) infected with an atypical pathogen died.
Conclusion: S pneumoniae remains the most important pathogen to cover by initial antibiotic therapy in adults of all ages admitted to hospital with CAP. Atypical pathogens are more common in younger patients. They should also be covered in all patients with severe pneumonia and younger patients with non-severe infection.