Background: The interplay between nasopharyngeal bacterial carriage, viral coinfection, and lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) is poorly understood. We explored this association in Vietnamese children aged less than 5 years.
Methods: A hospital-based case-control study of pediatric LRTIs was conducted in Nha Trang, Vietnam. A total of 550 hospitalized children (274 radiologically confirmed pneumonia [RCP] and 276 other LRTIs) were enrolled and 350 healthy controls were randomly selected from the community. Polymerase chain reaction-based methods were used to measure bacterial loads of Streptococcus pneumoniae (SP), Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis and to detect 13 respiratory viruses and bacterial serotypes in nasopharyngeal samples of study participants.
Results: The median nasopharyngeal bacterial load of SP was substantially higher in children with RCP compared with healthy controls or children with other LRTIs (P < 0.001). SP load was 15-fold higher in pneumonia children with viral coinfection compared with those children without viral coinfection (1.4 x 10⁷/mL vs. 9.1 x 10⁵/mL; P 0.0001). SP load was over 200-fold higher in serotypeable SP compared with nontypeable SP (2.5 x 10⁶/mL vs. 1 x 10⁴/mL; P < 0.0001). These associations were independent of potential confounders in multiple regression models. No clear association was found between nasopharyngeal load of Haemophilus influenzae or Moraxella catarrhalis and viral coinfection in either RCP or other LRTIs groups.
Conclusions: An increased load of SP in the nasopharynx was associated with RCP, viral coinfection, and presence of pneumococcal capsule.