Study: Long-Term Effects of Acute Pneumococcal Infection Reduce Quality of Life

These infections can include the central nervous system (CNS), circulation, invaded organs, lower airway, and the middle ear, with outcomes that can be permanent.

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Dr_Microbe /

Damage occurring during an acute pneumococcal infection can result in long-term issues that persist after the disease, which reduces life expectancy and quality of life, according to the results of a review published in Pneumonia.

Investigators think that when evaluating pneumonia, only short-term mortality is considered, which underestimates the impact of the long-term disease.

Pneumococcal infections can include the CNS, circulation, invaded organs, lower airway, and the middle ear. The infection can cause severe outcomes and have permanent effects.

In the review, investigators detailed the long-term effects of each of these conditions.

For a middle-ear infection, fluid present can cause hearing loss of 25 decibels, which is similar to putting in ear plugs and is also 10 decibels greater that bilateral disease.

In general, hearing substantially improves after 1 year, but full recovery is slow, investigators said.

Additionally, otitis media can cause issues with vestibular balance, as well as motor function.

In children, there can be recurrent episodes of otitis media, which can delay cognitive developmental milestones and speech development, causing poor performance in school.

Individuals with pneumonia typically fully recover, according to investigators.

However, in severe cases, physiological stress can be put on other organs, which can cause bacterial production or live bacteria to be put in circulation, causing systemic organ damage.

Individuals who have preexisting chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are more susceptible.

Tachycardia can be seen in individuals with pneumonia and can also affect preexisting conditions that worsen cardiac function, investigators said.

In older individuals, tachycardia can cause loss of cognitive function and dementia.

Furthermore, individuals hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia have an increased risk for long-term mortality that is almost double other hospitalized individuals, according to investigators.

In the CNS, approximately 30% of individuals who survive meningitis have some kind of neurological or neuro-behavioral impacts, investigators said.

This could cause worse performances in controls with alertness and cognitive flexibility with cognitive impairment, which can include attention, memory, and speed.

Additionally, these individuals also had lower perceived health, quality-of-life scores, and social functioning, as reported by investigators.

Healthy individuals without neurological defects are also at risk for long-term cognitive issues after infections, they said.

Early identification and treatment with antibiotics and corticosteroids can be used for the best outcomes, investigators said.

The most effective recommendation for physicians is to address the infection early and offer accurate diagnosis, disease prevention, prompt access to care, and rapid antibiotic delivery.

Widespread implementation of vaccines could help the prevention of pneumococcus, investigators said.

Additionally, data have shown that vaccination can be effective in adults who are older.

Further research is needed to understand the long-term effects and discover better preventatives and treatments for the serious long-term implications of the infection, investigators said.


Kruckow KL, Zhao K, Bowdish DME, Orihuela CJ. Acute organ injury and long-term sequelae of severe pneumococcal infections. Pneumonia (Nathan). 2023;15(1):5. doi:10.1186/s41479-023-00110-y

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