Colonization Density of the Upper Respiratory Tract as a Predictor of Pneumonia-Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, Staphylococcus aureus, and Pneumocystis jirovecii
Background.: There is limited information on the association between colonization density of upper respiratory tract colonizers and pathogen-specific pneumonia. We assessed this association for Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, Staphylococcus aureus, and Pneumocystis jirovecii.
Methods.: In 7 low- and middle-income countries, nasopharyngeal/oropharyngeal swabs from children with severe pneumonia and age-frequency matched community controls were tested using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Differences in median colonization density were evaluated using the Wilcoxon rank-sum test. Density cutoffs were determined using receiver operating characteristic curves. Cases with a pathogen identified from lung aspirate culture or PCR, pleural fluid culture or PCR, blood culture, and immunofluorescence for P. jirovecii defined microbiologically confirmed cases for the given pathogens.
Results.: Higher densities of H. influenzae were observed in both microbiologically confirmed cases and chest radiograph (CXR)-positive cases compared to controls. Staphylococcus aureus and P. jirovecii had higher densities in CXR-positive cases vs controls. A 5.9 log10 copies/mL density cutoff for H. influenzae yielded 86% sensitivity and 77% specificity for detecting microbiologically confirmed cases; however, densities overlapped between cases and controls and positive predictive values were poor (<3%). Informative density cutoffs were not found for S. aureus and M. catarrhalis, and a lack of confirmed case data limited the cutoff identification for P. jirovecii.
Conclusions.: There is evidence for an association between H. influenzae colonization density and H. influenzae-confirmed pneumonia in children; the association may be particularly informative in epidemiologic studies. Colonization densities of M. catarrhalis, S. aureus, and P. jirovecii are unlikely to be of diagnostic value in clinical settings.