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Thorax. 2011 Apr;66(4):340-6. doi: 10.1136/thx.2010.143982. Epub 2011 Jan 21.

Microbial aetiology of community-acquired pneumonia and its relation to severity.

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Servei de Pneumologia, Institut del Tòrax, Hospital Clinic, IDIBAPS, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona 08036, Spain.



The distribution of the microbial aetiology and mortality of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) was investigated in relation to the clinical setting and severity scores (pneumonia severity index (PSI) and confusion, blood urea nitrogen, respiratory rate, blood pressure, age (CURB-65)).


3523 patients with CAP were included (15% outpatients, 85% inpatients). The distribution of the microbial aetiology in relation to the clinical setting and severity scores (PSI, CURB-65) and the relative mortality of different aetiologies across the severity scores were analysed.


The aetiology was established in 1463 patients (42%), of whom 257 died (7%). The ranking of aetiologies varied according to site of care, with increasing frequency of Streptococcus pneumoniae and mixed aetiologies and decreasing frequency of atypical pathogens in hospitalised patients and those in ICUs. The distribution of aetiologies according to severity scores showed corresponding patterns; however, the severity scores were more sensitive to Gram-negative enteric bacilli (GNEB) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa and less sensitive in identifying mixed aetiologies as moderate- and high-risk conditions. Mortality rates according to aetiology and severity scoring showed increasing mortality rates for all pathogens except atypical pathogens. S pneumoniae had the highest number of deaths while GNEB, P aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and mixed aetiologies had the highest mortality rates. Legionella pneumophila was similarly distributed according to site of care and prognostic scores.


CAP due to atypical bacterial pathogens is recognised both clinically and by severity scoring as a low-risk condition. Severity scores are more sensitive in identifying patients with GNEB and P aeruginosa as moderate- and high-risk aetiologies whereas mixed aetiologies may be underestimated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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