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Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1999 Oct;18(10 Suppl):S42-9.

Bacterial and viral etiology of severe infection in children less than three months old in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

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Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province.



Determine the bacterial and viral etiology of severe infection in young Papua New Guinean infants as part of a multicenter study in four developing countries aimed at improving case management guidelines.


Between March, 1991, and April, 1993, children aged <3 months were recruited at the outpatient department of Goroka Base Hospital, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Children with pre-defined inclusion criteria were enrolled, a history was taken and clinical examination was performed. Blood and urine were collected from children with signs suggestive of severe disease together with eye, umbilical and pernasal swabs as appropriate. Nasopharyngeal aspirates (NPAs) were collected from children with and without signs of severe disease for identification of viruses and Chlamydia trachomatis by direct fluorescent antibody staining.


3280 infants were triaged and 2168 enrolled, among whom 968 had signs suggestive of severe disease. Group A Streptococcus (Streptococcus pyogenes) and Staphylococcus aureus were the most important bacterial pathogens isolated from children < 1 month old with severe infections, and Streptococcus pneumoniae, S. pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus were most important in older children. Of 292 eye swabs 19 (7%) grew Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Of 116 umbilical swabs 51 (44%) grew S. pyogenes and 45 (39%) grew Staphylococcus aureus. Respiratory syncytial virus was the most important viral cause of acute lower respiratory infection.


S. pyogenes, S. pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus are important causes of severe infection in young children in the PNG highlands. It is necessary to improve access to clean water, promote hand-washing in the hospital and at home and investigate further the use of maternal immunization for the prevention of severe disease in young infants.

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