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Streptococcus pneumoniae: transmission, colonization and invasion

Nature Reviews Microbiologyvolume 16pages355367 (2018) | Download Citation


Streptococcus pneumoniae has a complex relationship with its obligate human host. On the one hand, the pneumococci are highly adapted commensals, and their main reservoir on the mucosal surface of the upper airways of carriers enables transmission. On the other hand, they can cause severe disease when bacterial and host factors allow them to invade essentially sterile sites, such as the middle ear spaces, lungs, bloodstream and meninges. Transmission, colonization and invasion depend on the remarkable ability of S. pneumoniae to evade or take advantage of the host inflammatory and immune responses. The different stages of pneumococcal carriage and disease have been investigated in detail in animal models and, more recently, in experimental human infection. Furthermore, widespread vaccination and the resulting immune pressure have shed light on pneumococcal population dynamics and pathogenesis. Here, we review the mechanistic insights provided by these studies on the multiple and varied interactions of the pneumococcus and its host.

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The authors thank J. Pagano for editorial assistance. J.N.W. is funded by grants from the United States Public Health Service (AI038446 and AI105168). Research in J.C.P.’s laboratory is supported by program grant 1071659 from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC); J.C.P. is an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow. D.M.F. is supported by the Medical Research Council (grant MR/M011569/1) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (grant OPP1117728).

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Nature Reviews Microbiology thanks Sven Hammerschmidt and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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  1. New York University, New York, NY, USA

    • Jeffrey N. Weiser
  2. Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK

    • Daniela M. Ferreira
  3. University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

    • James C. Paton


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All authors researched data for the article, substantially contributed to discussion of content, wrote the article and reviewed and edited the manuscript before submission.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Jeffrey N. Weiser.


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