Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus, is a Gram-positive bacterium. S. pneumoniae resides asymptomatically in healthy carriers typically colonizing the respiratory tract, sinuses, and nasal cavity. However, in susceptible individuals with weaker immune systems, such as the elderly and young children, the bacterium may become pathogenic and spread to other locations to cause disease.
S. pneumoniae is the main cause of community acquired pneumonia and meningitis in children and the elderly, and of sepsis in those infected with HIV. The organism also causes many types of pneumococcal infections other than pneumonia. These invasive pneumococcal diseases include bronchitis, rhinitis, acute sinusitis, otitis media, conjunctivitis, meningitis, sepsis, osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, endocarditis, peritonitis, pericarditis, cellulitis, and brain abscess.
Pneumonia is the most common of the S. pneumoniae diseases which include symptoms such as fever and chills, cough, rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. For the elderly, they may include confusion, low alertness, and the former listed symptoms to a lesser degree.
Pneumococcal meningitis is an infection of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include stiff neck, fever, headache, confusion, and photophobia.
Sepsis is caused by overwhelming response to an infection and leads to tissue damage, organ failure, and even death. The symptoms include confusion, shortness of breath, elevated heart rate, pain or discomfort, over-perspiration, fever, shivering, or feeling cold.