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  Thursday August 28th, 2014    

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New vaccine for children helps prevent serious infections in older adults (11/02/2005)
Pneumococcal vaccine for children leads to 28 percent drop in serious infections foar older adults

Use of a new children's vaccine has been linked to a reduction in serious bacterial infections in older adults, according to a study authored by Minnesota researchers and collaborators being published Wednesday in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. The bacteria, pneumococcus, can cause serious infections, such as blood stream infections and meningitis, in people of all ages, but young children and older adults are particularly vulnerable.

The study, conducted by Catherine Lexau and colleagues at the Minnesota Department of Health, seven other U.S. participating institutions and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that the rate of serious pneumococcal infections among adults aged 50 years and older declined by 28 percent in the four years following introduction in 2000 of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for infants and young children.

The study analyzed data on the infections from eight U.S. cities and regions from 1998 through 2003. The locations had a total population of nearly 19 million. One of the areas was the Twin cities metropolitan area.

Researchers studied nearly 10,000 cases of serious pneumococcal infections. They found that the disease rates declined from 40.8 cases per 100,000 people in 1998-99 to 29.4 in 2002-03 in people aged 50 and over (-28 percent). Moreover, the rate of disease in these adults caused by the seven pneumococcal bacteria subtypes covered by the children's vaccine declined by 55 percent. There were not substantial declines in other subtypes. The declines first occurred in 2001, following initial use of the new children's vaccine in 2000, and then dropped further in 2002-03 as more children were vaccinated.

In the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, rates of serious pneumococcal infections dropped by 24 percent among older adults between 1998-99 and 2002-03. For Twin Cities-area children under the age of 5 years, use of the new vaccine has resulted in a 79 percent drop in the rates of these infections.

"This is strong evidence that vaccinating young children against pneumococcal disease helps to protect older adults in the population at large," Lexau said.

The declines were likely due to decreased community transmission of the bacteria. The vaccinated children carry these pneumococcal bacteria subtypes (covered by the vaccine) in their throats less often. This, in turn, reduces exposure to the bacteria for adults.

"The findings of this study are important because serious pneumococcal infections are very frequent in older adults and the elderly, and the death rate is high. About one in five people over the age of 65 who get these infections die from them," Lexau said.

Based on results from 2002 and 2003, researchers estimate that 6,250 serious pneumococcal infections and 550 deaths per year were prevented among Americans age 50 years and older compared to the years before the vaccine was available.

The other seven cities and states involved in the study were San Francisco County, Calif.; Connecticut, Atlanta, Georgia, Baltimore, Md.; Rochester, NY; Portland, Ore.; and Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tenn. The study was one of a number of ongoing collaborative projects involving the CDC-sponsored Emerging Infections Program (EIP).

More information on the EIP and on pneumococcal disease can be found on the MDH website at www.health.state.mn.us. 

 

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