Airborne dust and high temperatures are risk factors for invasive bacterial disease

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2017 Mar;139(3):977-986.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2016.04.062. Epub 2016 Jul 14.


Background: The Sahel region of West Africa has the highest bacterial meningitis attack and case fatality rate in the world. The effect of climatic factors on patterns of invasive respiratory bacterial disease is not well documented.

Objective: We aimed to assess the link between climatic factors and occurrence of invasive respiratory bacterial disease in a Sahel region of Niger.

Methods: We conducted daily disease surveillance and climatic monitoring over an 8-year period between January 1, 2003, and December 31, 2010, in Niamey, Niger, to determine risk factors for bacterial meningitis and invasive bacterial disease. We investigated the mechanistic effects of these factors on Streptococcus pneumoniae infection in mice.

Results: High temperatures and low visibility (resulting from high concentrations of airborne dust) were identified as significant risk factors for bacterial meningitis. Dust inhalation or exposure to high temperatures promoted progression of stable asymptomatic pneumococcal nasopharyngeal carriage to pneumonia and invasive disease. Dust exposure significantly reduced phagocyte-mediated bacterial killing, and exposure to high temperatures increased release of the key pneumococcal toxin pneumolysin through increased bacterial autolysis.

Conclusion: Our findings show that climatic factors can have a substantial influence on infectious disease patterns, altering density of pneumococcal nasopharyngeal carriage, reducing phagocytic killing, and resulting in increased inflammation and tissue damage and consequent invasiveness. Climatic surveillance should be used to forecast invasive bacterial disease epidemics, and simple control measures to reduce particulate inhalation might reduce the incidence of invasive bacterial disease in regions of the world exposed to high temperatures and increased airborne dust.

Keywords: Meningitis; Neisseria meningitidis; Streptococcus pneumoniae; climate; dust; pollution.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Air Pollutants*
  • Animals
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dust*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / epidemiology*
  • Mice
  • Niger / epidemiology
  • Pneumococcal Infections / immunology
  • Risk Factors
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Temperature


  • Air Pollutants
  • Dust