Introduction: Pediatric pneumococcal pneumonia complicated by parapneumonic pleural effusion/empyema (PPE/PE) remains a major concern despite general immunization with pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs).
Methods: In a nationwide pediatric hospital surveillance study in Germany we identified 584 children <18 years of age with bacteriologically confirmed PPE/PE from October 2010 to June 2018. Streptococcus pneumoniae was identified by culture and/or PCR of blood samples and/or pleural fluid and serotyped.
Results: S. pneumoniae was identified in 256 of 584 (43.8%) children by culture (n = 122) and/or PCR (n = 207). The following pneumococcal serotypes were detected in 114 children: serotype 3 (42.1%), 1 (25.4%), 7F (12.3%), 19A (7.9%), other PCV13 serotypes (4.4%) and non-PCV13 serotypes (7.9%). Between October 2010 and June 2014 serotype 1 (38.1%) and serotype 3 (25.4%) were most prevalent, whereas between July 2014 and June 2018 serotype 3 (62.7%) and non-PCV13 serotypes (15.7%) were dominant. Compared to children with other pneumococcal serotypes, children with serotype 3 associated PPE/PE were younger (median 3.2 years [IQR 2.1-4.3 years] vs. median 5.6 years [IQR 3.8-8.2 years]; p < 0.001) and more frequently admitted to intensive care (43 [89.6%] vs. 48 [73.8%]; p = 0.04). Seventy-six of 114 (66.7%) children with pneumococcal PPE/PE had been vaccinated with pneumococcal vaccines. Thirty-nine of 76 (51.3%) had received a vaccine covering the serotype detected. Thirty of these 39 breakthrough cases were age-appropriately vaccinated with PCV13 and considered vaccine failures, including 26 children with serotype 3, three children with serotype 19A and one child with serotype 1.
Conclusion: Following the introduction of PCV13 in general childhood vaccination we observed a strong emergence of serotype 3 associated PPE/PE in the German pediatric population, including a considerable number of younger children with serotype 3 vaccine breakthrough cases and failures. Future PCVs should not only cover newly emerging serotypes, but also include a more effective component against serotype 3.
Keywords: Children; Parapneumonic pleural effusion; Pleural empyema; Serotype 3; Streptococcus pneumoniae; Vaccine breakthrough.
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