Background: Pneumococcal surface adhesin A (PsaA) and pneumolysin (Ply) are common to virtually all Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates, and they are immunogenic and protective against pneumococcal challenge in experimental animals. We have recently shown production of antibodies to PsaA and Ply in young children, but data on the immune response to these antigens during culture-confirmed pneumococcal infection are lacking.
Objectives: To evaluate whether young children respond to S. pneumoniae by producing antibodies to PsaA and Ply during acute otitis media (AOM).
Subjects and methods: A cohort of 329 children was followed prospectively from the age of 2 months to the age of 2 years. Paired sera were obtained during episodes of AOM and used to measure antibodies to PsaA and Ply by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. S. pneumoniae cultured from the middle ear fluid was taken as evidence of pneumococcal AOM. The presence of S. pneumoniae in the nasopharyngeal aspirate collected in connection of AOM or any other respiratory infection or in the nasopharyngeal swab collected at scheduled visits was taken to indicate pneumococcal carriage and thus a history of previous contact with S. pneumoniae.
Results: Children with previous pneumococcal contacts had high anti-PsaA and anti-Ply concentrations in the acute phase sera regardless of the nature (AOM or carriage) of the current pneumococcal contact. Of the children with no previous pneumococcal contact, those with current pneumococcal AOM had lower antibody concentrations than those with current pneumococcal carriage only. Anti-PsaA and anti-Ply responses were found in children with current pneumococcal contact. The antibody response was strongly associated with low acute phase antibody concentration, but not significantly with age and the nature of the current pneumococcal contact.
Conclusions: We showed that infants are capable of developing a specific antibody response to the pneumococcal proteins PsaA and Ply during AOM.