Background: Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis, which are typically transmitted via respiratory droplets, are leading causes of invasive diseases, including bacteraemic pneumonia and meningitis, and of secondary infections subsequent to post-viral respiratory disease. The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence of invasive disease due to these pathogens during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methods: In this prospective analysis of surveillance data, laboratories in 26 countries and territories across six continents submitted data on cases of invasive disease due to S pneumoniae, H influenzae, and N meningitidis from Jan 1, 2018, to May, 31, 2020, as part of the Invasive Respiratory Infection Surveillance (IRIS) Initiative. Numbers of weekly cases in 2020 were compared with corresponding data for 2018 and 2019. Data for invasive disease due to Streptococcus agalactiae, a non-respiratory pathogen, were collected from nine laboratories for comparison. The stringency of COVID-19 containment measures was quantified using the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker. Changes in population movements were assessed using Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports. Interrupted time-series modelling quantified changes in the incidence of invasive disease due to S pneumoniae, H influenzae, and N meningitidis in 2020 relative to when containment measures were imposed.
Findings: 27 laboratories from 26 countries and territories submitted data to the IRIS Initiative for S pneumoniae (62 837 total cases), 24 laboratories from 24 countries submitted data for H influenzae (7796 total cases), and 21 laboratories from 21 countries submitted data for N meningitidis (5877 total cases). All countries and territories had experienced a significant and sustained reduction in invasive diseases due to S pneumoniae, H influenzae, and N meningitidis in early 2020 (Jan 1 to May 31, 2020), coinciding with the introduction of COVID-19 containment measures in each country. By contrast, no significant changes in the incidence of invasive S agalactiae infections were observed. Similar trends were observed across most countries and territories despite differing stringency in COVID-19 control policies. The incidence of reported S pneumoniae infections decreased by 68% at 4 weeks (incidence rate ratio 0·32 [95% CI 0·27-0·37]) and 82% at 8 weeks (0·18 [0·14-0·23]) following the week in which significant changes in population movements were recorded.
Interpretation: The introduction of COVID-19 containment policies and public information campaigns likely reduced transmission of S pneumoniae, H influenzae, and N meningitidis, leading to a significant reduction in life-threatening invasive diseases in many countries worldwide.
Funding: Wellcome Trust (UK), Robert Koch Institute (Germany), Federal Ministry of Health (Germany), Pfizer, Merck, Health Protection Surveillance Centre (Ireland), SpID-Net project (Ireland), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (European Union), Horizon 2020 (European Commission), Ministry of Health (Poland), National Programme of Antibiotic Protection (Poland), Ministry of Science and Higher Education (Poland), Agencia de Salut Pública de Catalunya (Spain), Sant Joan de Deu Foundation (Spain), Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (Sweden), Swedish Research Council (Sweden), Region Stockholm (Sweden), Federal Office of Public Health of Switzerland (Switzerland), and French Public Health Agency (France).
Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4.0 license. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.