Haemophilus influenzae: then and now

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 1995 Nov;14(11):935-48. doi: 10.1007/BF01691374.


Haemophilus influenzae has long been recognised as a major cause of serious infection and mortality in children less than 5 years old. Prior to the introduction of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) immunisation, the incidence of a child suffering an invasive Haemophilus infection was 20-50/100,000 in industrialised countries and up to ten times higher in developing regions. The introduction of a Hib vaccine programme results in a rapid and dramatic decline in the incidence of Hib infection in the susceptible childhood population. For example, within two years of the introduction of routine Hib vaccination of infants in the UK, the risk of serious Hib infection had fallen from 1:600 to 1:30,000 by 5 years of age. Many other European countries have introduced, or are in the process of introducing, a routine Hib immunisation programme. Because the epidemiology of Haemophilus influenzae infection is changing so dramatically, it is opportune to review Haemophilus influenzae as it was perceived in the pre-vaccine era (the past) and during vaccine implementation (the present), and how its role may change in the post-vaccination era (the future). This review will summarise the historical landmarks that have led to our present-day understanding of Haemophilus influenzae pathogenicity, the concerns about antibiotic resistance, the features of the host immune response to Haemophilus influenzae, and the introduction of the Hib vaccine. Furthermore, the possible importance of this organism in the future will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Haemophilus Infections / epidemiology
  • Haemophilus Infections / history*
  • Haemophilus Infections / prevention & control
  • Haemophilus Vaccines / history
  • Haemophilus influenzae*
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans


  • Haemophilus Vaccines