Pneumococcal Disease Risk Higher with Asthma

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Patients with asthma are at 2 times greater risk for pneumococcal disease, compared with individuals without the condition, warned researchers. A vaccine is available for pneumococcal disease. Current guidelines, however, do not include asthma on the list of conditions for which people need the vaccine, because there has been no proof of an increased risk in patients with asthma.

To show that patients with asthma are at risk for infection, researchers identified 635 individuals aged 2 to 29 with invasive pneumococcal disease. The researchers also identified participants as having either high-or low-risk asthma. The study excluded children <2 because it is hard to diagnose asthma in children so young. Adults >49 were not included because they might have had other lung disease, making it difficult to pinpoint asthma without extensive testing.

Reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine (May 19, 2005), the researchers found that the overall risk for pneumococcal infection was 2.4 times higher for patients with chronic asthma. The occurrence of invasive pneumococcal disease was 4.2 episodes per 10,000 participants with high-risk asthma and 2.3 per 10,000 for those with low-risk asthma and no other chronic diseases. For individuals without asthma, the rate was 1.2 per 10,000.