Publication, Nature, July 2018
Viral upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) predisposes to bacterial pneumonia possibly by facilitating growth of bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae colonising the nasopharynx. We investigated whether viral URTI is temporally associated with an increase in nasopharyngeal pneumococcal concentration. Episodes of symptomatic RSV or rhinovirus URTI among children <5 years were identifed from a longitudinal household study in rural Kenya. lytA and alu PCR were performed on nasopharyngeal samples collected twice-weekly, to measure the pneumococcal concentration adjusted for the concentration of human DNA present. Pneumococcal concentration increased with a foldchange of 3.80 (95%CI 1.95–7.40), with acquisition of RSV or rhinovirus, during 51 URTI episodes among 42 children. In repeated swabs from the baseline period, in the two weeks before URTI developed, within-episode variation was broad; within +/−112-fold range of the geometric mean. We observed only a small increase in nasopharyngeal pneumococcal concentration during RSV or rhinovirus URTI, relative to natural variation. Other factors, such as host response to viral infection, may be more important than nasopharyngeal pneumococcal concentration in determining risk of invasive disease.