Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in infants, children and the elderly. Despite the availability of excellent antimicrobial therapy and adequate health care systems, respiratory diseases and invasive infections caused by pneumococci still comprise a major health problem. The emerging resistance to penicillin and other commonly used antibiotics underscores the importance of the development of novel vaccine strategies to combat pneumococcal disease. Although the 23-valent polysaccharide (PS) vaccine is immunogenic and protective in most adults and children over 5 years of age, they fail to protect children under 2 years of age. Fortunately, the recent conjugate vaccines have shown to be highly efficacious in preventing invasive diseases in this risk group. Moreover, promising results regarding prevention of pneumonia and acute otitis media have been published. Unfortunately, protection is raised against a limited number of pneumococcal serotypes, and serotype replacement and subsequent vaccine failure have become a serious concern. Currently, several pneumococcal surface proteins are considered as alternative vaccine candidates because of their serotype-independence. Thus far, pneumococcal surface adhesin A (PsaA) has proven to be highly protective against colonization in animal models. Moreover, pneumococcal surface protein A (PspA) and pneumolysin have shown to elicit protection against invasive diseases. Future research will elucidate their true potential in protecting humans. In this paper we discuss the present knowledge on pneumococcal vaccines and the current status of novel vaccine strategies.

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Department of Pediatrics

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