The pneumococcal pilus has been shown to be an important determinant of adhesion and virulence in mouse models of colonization, pneumonia, and bacteremia. A pilus is capable of inducing protective immunity, supporting its inclusion in next-generation pneumococcal protein vaccine formulations. Whether this vaccine target is common among pneumococci in sub-Saharan Africa is uncertain. To define the prevalence and genetic diversity of type I and II pili among invasive pneumococci in Malawi prior to the introduction of the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) into routine childhood immunization, we examined 188 Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates collected between 2002 and 2008 (17% serotype 1). In this region of high disease burden, we found a low frequency of invasive piliated pneumococci (14%) and pilus gene sequence diversity similar to that seen previously in multiple global pneumococcal lineages. All common serotypes with pilus were covered by PCV13 and so we predict that pilus prevalence will be reduced in the Malawian pneumococcal population after PCV13 introduction.
Kulohoma, B. W., Gray, K., Kamng’ona, A., Cornick, J., Bentley, S. D., Heyderman, R. S., & Everett, D. B. (2013). Piliation of Invasive Streptococcus pneumoniae Isolates in the Era before Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine Introduction in Malawi. Clinical and Vaccine Immunology, 20(11), 1729–1735. https://doi.org/10.1128/cvi.00403-13