Respiratory infections caused by non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae

Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2003 Apr;16(2):129-34. doi: 10.1097/00001432-200304000-00009.


Purpose of review: This review will consider recent developments in the clinical aspects of infections due to non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae. In addition, newer developments in the areas of mechanisms of pathogenesis, host pathogen interaction, immune responses and efforts toward vaccine development will be reviewed briefly.

Recent findings: Non-typeable H. influenzae continues to be a common cause of otitis media in infants and children, sinusitis in children and adults, pneumonia in adults, and lower respiratory tract infection in adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. While the rate of beta-lactamase production by isolates of H. influenzae varies geographically, most regions show a rate of 20-35% of isolates producing beta-lactamase. Recent studies have highlighted the possible role of bacterial biofilms formed by H. influenzae as a cause of otitis media. Several lines of evidence indicate that H. influenzae causes intracellular infection in the lower respiratory tract in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and this observation has important implications in understanding the human immune response to the bacterium. Lipooligosaccharide is an important virulence factor for H. influenzae and research is generating new information on the complex role of this molecule in colonization and infection of the respiratory tract. Several surface molecules are under active evaluation as vaccine antigens.

Summary: Non-typeable H. influenzae is an important cause of respiratory tract infections in children and adults. Most strains are susceptible to amoxicillin/clavulanate, fluoroquinolones and the newer macrolides. Research in the next decade promises substantial progress in the challenge of developing vaccines for nontypeable H. influenzae.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Child
  • Haemophilus Infections / immunology
  • Haemophilus Infections / microbiology
  • Haemophilus Infections / physiopathology
  • Haemophilus influenzae / classification*
  • Haemophilus influenzae / drug effects
  • Haemophilus influenzae / pathogenicity
  • Humans
  • Lipopolysaccharides / metabolism
  • Nasopharynx / microbiology
  • Otitis Media / immunology
  • Otitis Media / microbiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / immunology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / microbiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / immunology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / microbiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / physiopathology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • lipid-linked oligosaccharides