To determine the burden of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) affecting adults in North America, a comprehensive literature review was conducted to examine the incidence, morbidity and mortality, etiology, antibiotic resistance, and economic impact of CAP in this population. In the United States, there were approximately 4.2 million ambulatory care visits for pneumonia in 2006. Pneumonia and influenza continue to be a common cause of death in the United States (ranked eighth) and Canada (ranked seventh). In 2005, there were >60,000 deaths due to pneumonia in persons aged>or=15 years in the United States alone. The hospitalization rate for all infectious diseases increased from 1525 hospitalizations per 100 000 persons in 1998 to 1667 per 100 000 persons in 2005. Admission to an intensive care unit was required in 10% to 20% of patients hospitalized with pneumonia. The mean length of stay for pneumonia was >or=5 days and the 30-day rehospitalization rate was as high as 20%. Mortality was highest for CAP patients who were hospitalized; the 30-day mortality rate was as high as 23%. All-cause mortality for CAP patients was as high as 28% within 1 year. Streptococcus pneumoniae continues to be the most frequently identified pathogen associated with CAP, and pneumococcal resistance to antimicrobials may make treatment more difficult. The economic burden associated with CAP remains substantial at >$17 billion annually in the United States. Despite the availability and widespread adherence to recommended treatment guidelines, CAP continues to present a significant burden in adults. Furthermore, given the aging population in North America, clinicians can expect to encounter an increasing number of adult patients with CAP. Given the significance of the disease burden, the potential benefit of pneumococcal vaccination in adults is substantial.