Diagnosis & Treatment
Early diagnosis and treatment are very important for invasive pneumococcal disease. If invasive pneumococcal disease, like meningitis or bloodstream infections, is suspected, samples of blood or cerebrospinal fluid are collected and sent to the laboratory for testing. It is important to know if it is pneumococcal disease because the severity of illness and the treatment will change depending on the cause. In the case of pneumococcal disease, antibiotics can help prevent severe illness.
If pneumococcus bacteria are present with invasive disease, they can be grown (cultured). Growing the bacteria in the laboratory is important for:
Some pneumococcal infections are considered “invasive.” Invasive disease means that germs invade parts of the body that are normally free from germs.
- Confirming the presence of bacteria
- Identifying the specific type of bacteria that is causing the infection
- Deciding which antibiotic will work best
Other tests can sometimes detect and identify the bacteria if the cultures do not.
For non-invasive pneumococcal disease, like ear and sinus infections, diagnosis is usually made by a healthcare provider based on findings of a physical exam and a history that supports pneumococcal infection.
Pneumococcal disease is treated with antibiotics. However, many types of pneumococcal bacteria have become resistant to some of the antibiotics used to treat these infections. Resistance to penicillin and other antibiotics is common. In some areas of the United States, up to 15% of invasive pneumococcal infections are resistant to penicillin.
Antibiotic treatment for invasive pneumococcal infections typically includes ‘broad-spectrum’ antibiotics until results of antibiotic sensitivity testing are available. Broad-spectrum antibiotics work against a wide range of bacteria. Once the sensitivity of the bacteria is known, a more targeted antibiotic may be selected.
Antibiotic sensitivity testing shows which antibiotics will be most successful at treating a bacterial infection.
With success of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, we see much less antibiotic-resistant pneumococcal infections. In addition to the vaccine, appropriate use of antibiotics may also slow or reverse drug-resistant pneumococcal infections.
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