Background: There are more than 90 serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae, with varying biologic and epidemiologic properties. Animal studies suggest that carriage induces an acquired immune response that reduces duration of colonization in a nonserotype-specific fashion.
Methods: We studied pneumococcal nasopharyngeal carriage longitudinally in Kenyan children 3-59 months of age, following up positive swabs at days 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32 and then monthly thereafter until 2 swabs were negative for the original serotype. As previously reported, 1868/2840 (66%) of children swabbed at baseline were positive. We estimated acquisition, clearance, and competition parameters for 27 serotypes using a Markov transition model.
Results: Point estimates of type-specific acquisition rates ranged from 0.00025/d (type 1) to 0.0031/d (type 19F). Point estimates of time to clearance (inverse of type-specific immune clearance rate) ranged from 28 days (type 20) to 124 days (type 6A). For the serotype most resistant to competition (type 19F), acquisition of other serotypes was 52% less likely (95% confidence interval = 37%-63%) than in an uncolonized host. Fitness components (carriage duration, acquisition rate, lack of susceptibility to competition) were positively correlated with each other and with baseline prevalence, and were associated with biologic properties previously shown to associate with serotype. Duration of carriage declined with age for most serotypes.
Conclusions: Common S. pneumoniae serotypes appear superior in many dimensions of fitness. Differences in rate of immune clearance are attenuated as children age and become capable of more rapid clearance of the longest-lived serotypes. These findings provide information for comparison after introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.