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Am J Med. 2004 Aug 2;117 Suppl 3A:3S-15S.

Streptococcus pneumoniae: epidemiology and patterns of resistance.

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Department of Pathology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.


Streptococcus pneumoniae is a leading cause of bacterial pneumonia, meningitis, otitis media, and sinusitis; it results in significant morbidity and mortality in patients with pneumonia and meningitis. The pneumococcus is a common colonizing bacterium in the respiratory tract; it is especially common in the respiratory tracts of children, where it is frequently exposed to antimicrobial agents. This exposure can lead to resistance. Penicillin nonsusceptibility is found in nearly 40% of strains causing disease in adults, although often these cases are treatable with appropriate dosing regimens of many oral and parenteral beta-lactam agents. In the United States resistance to macrolides is widespread--averaging approximately 28%--but geographically variable, ranging from 23% in the northwest to 30% in the northeast. Resistance to tetracyclines and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole are reported in approximately 20% and 35% of isolates, respectively, and resistance to multiple classes of agents is increasingly common. Amoxicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanate, respiratory fluoroquinolones, and clindamycin are currently the most effective agents for treatment of respiratory tract infections caused by S pneumoniae, with >90% of isolates in the United States being susceptible. Vancomycin is the only agent against which resistance has not emerged. Patient groups that are at increased risk for developing resistant pneumococcal infections have been identified and include patients with malignancies, human immunodeficiency virus infection, and sickle-cell disease. Judicious use of antimicrobials is the key to preventing the emergence of further resistance, particularly as few new classes of agents are likely to become available for clinical use in the short term.

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