Background: The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between nasopharyngeal pneumococcal colonization in early life and the subsequent development of pneumococcal-specific T cell responses.
Methods: Pernasal swabs were collected from Papua New Guinean infants at the ages of 1 and 2 weeks (n = 279). At 9 months, in vitro cellular immune responses to choline-binding protein A (n = 132), pneumococcal surface protein A (n = 132), pneumolysin (n = 99), and the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine carrier CRM197 were determined. Responses were compared based on the children's carriage status within the first 2 weeks of life.
Results: Within the first 2 weeks of life, 40% of the study children carried Streptococcus pneumoniae. Early carriage was associated with lower interferon-γ and interleukin 10 responses to pneumococcal proteins at age 9 months when children had not received pneumococcal conjugate vaccines during the study period.
Conclusions: Early pneumococcal carriage may result in enhanced disease susceptibility and suboptimal vaccine responses by modulating the development of pneumococcal immune responses.