Streptococcus pneumoniae is the main causal factor for community acquired pneumonia disease. But, actually what is Streptococcus pneumoniae? How does it cause infections? To get answers for these medical queries, keep reading.
Streptococcus pneumoniae, colloquially referred to as pneumococcus, is a pathogenic strain of Streptococcus bacteria. As the name goes, the S. pneumoniae is closely related to pneumonia disease, which is an inflammatory condition of the lungs. A rather serious medical condition is resulted, if pneumococcus from the lungs is passed on the bloodstream and spinal fluid. This strep bacterium is transmitted from a sick person to another through contact of respiratory secretions.
Pneumococcus is identified as one of the prime causes of lobar pneumonia, along with various other pathogenic bacteria, fungi, virus and parasites are responsible for causing the same respiratory ailment. In addition to pneumonia, infection by this bacterium results in sinusitis, meningitis, empyema, bacteremia, peritonitis, osteomyelitis, cellulitis, otitis media and meningitis. To help you understand what Streptococcus pneumoniae is in detail, the following tables highlight the scientific classification and description of this pathogenic bacterium.
Classification of Streptococcus Pneumoniae
coccus Pneumoniae Description
|Size:||0.5 and 1.25 micrometers|
|Shape:||Like a lancet knife|
|Gram Staining:||Gram-positive bacteria|
|Diagnosis:||Bile solubility and optochin sensitivity|
|Genome Size:||2.0-2.1 million basepairs|
In a healthy person, pneumococcus is present in the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat), and contributes to the flora population of the nasopharyngeal area. Nonetheless, this bacterial strain multiples repeatedly under favorable growth conditions and spreads to other body parts, resulting in widespread infection. In short, S. pneumoniae is virulent when the immune system of a person is compromised, or when the body’s natural defenses are too weak to counteract the rapid growth of bacteria. Thus, pneumonia disease is mostly reported amongst children, elderly people and those who have been diagnosed with chronic disorders.
Streptococcus Pneumoniae Infections
While some patients develop serious, invasive type of pneumococcal infections (septicemia and meningitis), others are diagnosed with regular infections of the respiratory system (sinusitis and pneumonia). The infection caused by pneumococcus is considered invasive, if infection occurs in bodily parts which are normally sterile, like spinal fluid and blood. Under such a case, this bacterium has the potency to spread to different parts of the body. Both invasive and non-invasive pneumococcal infection are treated with the help of antibacterial therapy.
The typical symptoms of Streptococcus pneumoniae infection are cough, high fever, difficulty in breathing, rapid breathing and pain in the chest area. Other accompanying signs include headache, fatigue, muscle ache, nausea and vomiting. People having suspicious symptoms should not delay in taking medical attention. Otherwise, an untreated pneumococcal infection may worsen and cause severe, life-threatening complications. In fact, pneumonia is a leading cause of death for children, elderly people and those who have a weakened immune system.
Treatment for Streptococcus Pneumoniae
Diagnosis of pneumococcal infection is done after examining the physical symptoms and conducting X-ray imaging along with other laboratory tests. Microscopic examination of blood and saliva is usually done to diagnose Streptococcus pneumoniae infections. Another diagnosing method involves using a chemical called ethylhydrocupreine (Optochin) for laboratory culture of cells. Infection is diagnosed, if bacterial growth is inhibited upon exposure to Optochin. While this is considered a reliable technique to identify pneumococcus, it may happen that the bacterium has developed resistance to Optochin and continues to grow in the culture sample. In such a case, any observer will make a mistake of assuming that the infection is not because of Streptococcus pneumoniae which may affect the treatment advised to the patient and his health drastically.
Regarding streptococcus pneumoniae treatment, penicillin antibiotic is recommended in correct doses. For those who receives treatment at the early infection stages, symptoms will subside gradually within 2-3 days of starting antibacterial therapy. Nevertheless, a major global concern related to treatment of S. pneumoniae infection is that this bacterium is slowly becoming resistant to antibacterial therapy. And the reason for this is, misuse and overusing of antibiotics. Thus, prompt therapeutic approaches should be taken to address pneumococcal infections.
A reliable strategy implemented to prevent pneumococcal infections is vaccination. Today, pneumococcal pneumonia vaccines – PPS (23-valent polysaccharide) vaccine and PCV7 (7-valent conjugate) vaccine, are made available in community healthcare centers. They are given to children under 2 years, people who are 65 years old and above and chronically ill patients. For those who are not sure of getting vaccinated must talk to the doctor for taking a decision.