Pneumococcal disease is a bacterial infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus. Pneumococcus can cause many different illnesses, ranging from sepsis to more serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses such as pneumonia and meningitis. Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, which is transmitted through the saliva or mucus of infected individuals, but infants, the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.6 million people die of pneumococcal disease annually, most of whom are young children in developing countries.

Pneumococcal disease is vaccine-preventable and can be treated with antibiotics, but increasing resistance to conventional treatments has added urgency to the need for expanded immunization and effective prevention policies.  Although pneumococcal vaccines are available on the market worldwide, barriers to vaccination such as limited surveillance data and delivery challenges contribute to the persisting high burden of disease.

Sabin has done much to increase global awareness of this deadly disease. In 2006, Sabin launched the Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE), a group of infectious disease experts together with professional medical societies across the globe dedicated to improving pneumococcal disease awareness and prevention. Through its advocacy efforts from 2006 to 2011, PACE helped motivate countries to introduce life-saving pneumococcal conjugate vaccines. At the time, pneumococcal vaccines had been licensed for use in the United States, but many lower-income countries had not introduced the vaccines to their routine immunization schedules. PACE strove to expand access to pneumococcal vaccines informing policymakers about the global threat of pneumococcal disease and encouraging governments to prioritize prevention.

To ensure that the latest pneumococcal research and prevention strategies have the greatest reach, Sabin also convenes the world’s leading experts in epidemiology and other key public health professionals at regional and country-level pneumococcal symposia. These symposia were developed in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and PneumoADIP.  The most recent symposium was held in March 2013 in Brazil. More information on this and past symposia can be found here.

In addition to PACE and pneumococcal symposia, Sabin has led a number of studies to better determine the burden of pneumococcal disease and the impact of vaccination to assist countries in assessing the value of introducing pneumococcal vaccines to routine immunization schedules. These studies have assessed data from countries across Latin America, including: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Paraguay.

Pneumococcal Disease Burden in the Over-Five Years Old Age Groups

In partnership with the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University, PAHO, and the CDC, Sabin worked to collect and review country-level data from Latin American countries on the burden of invasive and non-invasive pneumococcal disease by age group in Latin America and the Caribbean, focusing on those five years and older. The study also described the cost of illness and the trends of serotype distribution of pneumococcal disease for these groups.

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Burden of Pediatric Pneumococcal Disease in Latin America and the Caribbean

Sabin led a comprehensive study with PAHO, CDC and IVAC to estimate the burden of pediatric pneumococcal disease in the Latin America and Caribbean region, as well as the cost effectiveness of pneumococcal vaccination in children. The report found that more than 18,000 children die every year in the region from pneumococcal disease, and revealed that the region was spending more than U.S. $294 million in direct medical costs to treat these diseases.

View the full study

PCV Effectiveness on Hospitalizations and Deaths from Childhood Pneumococcal Disease

In Chile and Peru, Sabin worked in partnership with the PAHO to assess the impact and effectiveness of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) on hospitalizations and deaths due to childhood pneumonia, following PCV introduction into the national immunization programs of these countries. Studies demonstrating the effect of PCV immunization on pneumococcal morbidity and mortality in middle income countries with high disease burden are historically scarce. Showing the impact of the vaccine, through its routine use in the national immunization program, provided the best information on the potential benefit of PCV mass vaccination in order to help guide national health policies in other countries.

View the Chile manuscript

View the Peru manuscript

Sabin continues to gather evidence on the impact of pneumococcal disease and vaccination. Currently, in collaboration with PAHO, Sabin is supporting evidence generation in Brazil, Chile and Paraguay.