Effects of new penicillin susceptibility breakpoints for Streptococcus pneumoniae--United States, 2006-2007

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2008 Dec 19;57(50):1353-5.


Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is a common cause of pneumonia and meningitis in the United States. Antimicrobial resistance, which can result in pneumococcal infection treatment failure, is identified by measuring the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of an antimicrobial that will inhibit pneumococcal growth. Breakpoints are MICs that define infections as susceptible (treatable), intermediate (possibly treatable with higher doses), and resistant (not treatable) to certain antimicrobials. In January 2008, after a reevaluation that included more recent clinical studies, the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) published new S. pneumoniae breakpoints for penicillin (the preferred antimicrobial for susceptible S. pneumoniae infections). To assess the potential effects of the new breakpoints on susceptibility categorization, CDC applied them to MICs of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) isolates collected by the Active Bacterial Core surveillance (ABCs) system at sites in 10 states during 2006-2007. This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which found that the percentage of IPD nonmeningitis S. pneumoniae isolates categorized as susceptible, intermediate, and resistant to penicillin changed from 74.7%, 15.0%, and 10.3% under the former breakpoints to 93.2%, 5.6%, and 1.2%, respectively, under the new breakpoints. Microbiology laboratories should be aware of the new breakpoints to interpret pneumococcal susceptibility accurately, and clinicians should be aware of the breakpoints to prescribe antimicrobials appropriately for pneumococcal infections. State and local health departments also should be aware of the new breakpoints because they might result in a decrease in the number of reported cases of penicillin-resistant pneumococcus.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Meningitis, Pneumococcal / microbiology
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Penicillins / pharmacology*
  • Streptococcal Infections / epidemiology
  • Streptococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / drug effects*
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / isolation & purification
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Penicillins