Minimum incidence of adult invasive pneumococcal disease in Blantyre, Malawi an Urban African setting: A hospital based prospective cohort study

Naor Bar-Zeev, Neema Mtunthama, Stephen B. Gordon, Gershom Mwafulirwa, Neil French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Invasive pneumococcal disease causes substantial morbidity and mortality in Africa. Evaluating population level indirect impact on adult disease of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) programmes in infants requires baseline population incidence rates but these are often lacking in areas with limited disease surveillance. We used hospital based blood culture and cerebrospinal fluid surveillance to calculate minimal incidence of invasive pneumococcal disease in the adult (≥15 years old) population of Blantyre, a rapidly growing urban centre in southern Malawi, in the period preceding vaccine introduction. Invasive pneumococcal disease incidence in Blantyre district was high, mean 58.1(95% confidence interval (CI):53.7, 62.7) per 100,000 person years and peaking among 35 to 40 year olds at 108.8 (95%CI: 89.0, 131.7) mirroring the population age prevalence of HIV infection. For pneumococcal bacteraemia in urban Blantyre, mean incidence was 60.6 (95% CI: 55.2, 66.5) per 100,000 person years, peaking among 35 to 40 year olds at 114.8 (95%CI: 90.3, 143.9). We suspected that our surveillance may under-ascertain the true burden of disease, so we used location data from bacteraemic subjects and projected population estimates to calculate local sub-district incidence, then examined the impact of community level socio-demographic covariates as possible predictors of local sub-district incidence of pneumococcal and non-pneumococcal pathogenic bacteraemia. Geographic heterogeneity in incidence was marked with localised hotspots but ward level covariates apart from prison were not associated with pneumococcal bacteraemia incidence. Modelling suggests that the current sentinel surveillance system under-ascertains the true burden of disease. We outline a number of challenges to surveillance for pneumococcal disease in our low-resource setting. Subsequent surveillance in the vaccine era will have to account for geographic heterogeneity when evaluating population level indirect impact of PCV13 introduction to the childhood immunisation program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0128738
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 3 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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