Background: The cause of historically higher rates of invasive pneumococcal disease among blacks than whites has remained unknown. We tested the hypothesis that sickle cell trait or hemoglobin C trait is an independent risk factor for invasive pneumococcal disease.
Method: Eligible children were born in Tennessee (1996-2003), had a newborn screen, enrolled in TennCare aged <1 year, and resided in a Tennessee county with laboratory-confirmed, pneumococcal surveillance. Race/ethnicity was ascertained from birth certificates. Children were followed through 2005 until loss of enrollment, pneumococcal disease episode, fifth birthday, or death. We calculated incidence rates by race/ethnicity and hemoglobin type before and after pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) introduction. Poisson regression analyses compared invasive pneumococcal disease rates among blacks with sickle cell trait or hemoglobin C trait with whites and blacks with normal hemoglobin, controlling for age, gender, time (pre-PCV7, transition year, or post-PCV7) and high-risk conditions (eg, heart disease).
Results: Over 10 years, 415 invasive pneumococcal disease episodes occurred during 451,594 observed child-years. Before PCV7 introduction, disease rates/100,000 child-years were 2941 for blacks with sickle cell disease, 258 for blacks with sickle cell trait or hemoglobin C trait and 188, 172, and 125 for blacks, whites, and Hispanics with normal hemoglobin. Post-PCV7, rates declined for all groups. Blacks with sickle cell trait or hemoglobin C trait had 77% (95% CI = 22-155) and 42% (95% CI = 1-100) higher rates than whites and blacks with normal hemoglobin.
Conclusion: Black children with sickle cell trait or hemoglobin C trait have an increased risk of invasive pneumococcal disease.