Etiology of childhood pneumonia: serologic results of a prospective, population-based study

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1998 Nov;17(11):986-91. doi: 10.1097/00006454-199811000-00004.


Background: To investigate the etiology of pediatric community-acquired pneumonia, we conducted a prospective, population-based study covering the total population <15 years of age (n = 8851) in 4 municipalities in eastern Finland.

Materials and methods: The number of patients was 201; chest radiographs were available for all cases and paired sera for serologic assays were available for >90% of cases. The methods included assays for antibody response to 3 pneumococcal antigens, specific pneumococcal immune complex assays and conventional antibody tests for mycoplasmal, chlamydial and viral infections.

Results: Serologic evidence of specific microbial etiology was obtained in 133 (66%) of the pneumonia patients. Bacterial infection was diagnosed in 102 cases (51%) and viral infection in 51 cases (25%). Streptococcus pneumoniae was the most common agent (57 cases; 28%), followed by Mycoplasma pneumoniae (44; 22%), respiratory syncytial virus (43; 21%) and Chlamydia spp. (29; 14%). Haemophilus influenzae was identified in only 6% and Moraxella catarrhalis in only 3% of the children. More than one specific infection was found in 51 patients (25%). The proportion of pneumococcal cases varied from 24 to 36% by age. Mycoplasma infections were seen mostly in patients > or =5 years and Chlamydia infections in patients > or =10 years of age.

Conclusions: The results of our prospective, strictly population-based study confirm the importance of S. pneumoniae in the etiology of community-acquired pneumonia in children of all ages. M. pneumoniae and Chlamydia pneumoniae are important from the age of 5 years onwards.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communicable Diseases
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pneumonia / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia / microbiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Serologic Tests