Introduction: Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. We sought to describe the epidemiology of non-invasive and invasive pneumococcal disease in a national Veterans Affairs population within the United States.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective study in older patients (aged ≥50 years) with positive pneumococcal cultures from any site between 2002 and 2011. We described outpatient and inpatient pneumococcal disease incidence per 100,000 clinic visits/hospitalizations. Repeat cultures within a 30-day period were considered to represent the same episode. To describe the epidemiology of serious pneumococcal infections (bacteremia, meningitis, pneumonia), we assessed demographics, clinical characteristics, and risk factors for S. pneumoniae. Pneumonia was defined as a positive respiratory culture with a pneumonia diagnosis code. Bacteremia and meningitis were identified from positive cultures. Generalized linear mixed models were used to quantify changes over time.
Results: Over the study period, we identified 45,983 unique episodes of pneumococcal disease (defined by positive cultures). Incidence decreased significantly by 3.5% per year in outpatients and increased non-significantly by 0.2% per year in inpatients. In 2011, the outpatient and inpatient incidence was 2.6 and 328.1 infections per 100,000 clinic visits/hospitalizations, respectively. Among inpatients with serious infections, chronic disease risk factors for pneumococcal disease increased significantly each year, including respiratory disease (1.9% annually), diabetes (1.3%), and renal failure (1.0%). Overall, 30.2% of inpatients with serious infections had a pneumococcal immunization in the previous 5 years. Invasive disease (37.4% versus 34.9%, P = 0.004) and mortality (14.0% versus 12.7%, P = 0.045) were higher in non-vaccinated patients compared to vaccinated patients.
Conclusions: In our national study of older adults, the baseline health status of those with serious pneumococcal infections worsened over the study period. As the population ages and the chronic disease epidemic grows, the burden of pneumococcal disease is likely to increase thus highlighting the importance of pneumococcal vaccination.