Background: The etiologic diagnosis of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) remains challenging in children because blood cultures have low sensitivity. Novel approaches are needed to confirm the role of Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Methods: In this study, pneumococcal etiology was determined by serology using a subset of blood samples collected during a prospective multicentre observational study of children <15 years of age hospitalized in Belgium with radiogram-confirmed CAP. Blood samples were collected at admission and 3–4 weeks later. Pneumococcal (P)-CAP was defined in the presence of a positive blood or pleural fluid culture. Serotyping of S. pneumoniae isolates was done with the Quellung reaction. Serological diagnosis was assessed for 9 serotypes using World Health Organization–validated IgG and IgA serotype-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs).
Results: Paired admission/convalescent sera from 163 children were evaluated by ELISA (35 with proven P-CAP and 128 with nonproven P-CAP). ELISA detected pneumococci in 82.8% of patients with proven P-CAP. The serotypes identified were the same as with the Quellung reaction in 82% and 59% of cases by IgG ELISA and IgA ELISA, respectively. Overall, ELISA identified a pneumococcal etiology in 55% of patients with nonproven P-CAP. Serotypes 1 (51.6%), 7F (19%) and 5 (15.7%) were the most frequent according to IgG ELISA.
Conclusions: In conclusion, the serological assay allows recognition of pneumococcal origin in 55% of CAP patients with negative culture. This assay should improve the diagnosis of P-CAP in children and could be a useful tool for future epidemiological studies on childhood CAP etiology.