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INTRODUCTION: Pneumococcal colonisation is regarded as a pre-requisite for developing pneumococcal disease. In children previous studies have reported pneumococcal colonisation to be a symptomatic event and described a relationship between symptom severity/frequency and colonisation density. The evidence for this in adults is lacking in the literature. This study uses the experimental human pneumococcal challenge (EHPC) model to explore whether pneumococcal colonisation is a symptomatic event in healthy adults. METHODS: Healthy participants aged 18-50 were recruited and inoculated intra-nasally with either Streptococcus pneumoniae (serotypes 6B, 23F) or saline as a control. Respiratory viral swabs were obtained prior to inoculation. Nasal and non-nasal symptoms were then assessed using a modified Likert score between 1 (no symptoms) to 7 (cannot function). The rate of symptoms reported between the two groups was compared and a correlation analysis performed. RESULTS: Data from 54 participants were analysed. 46 were inoculated with S. pneumoniae (29 with serotype 6B, 17 with serotype 23F) and 8 received saline (control). In total, 14 became experimentally colonised (30.4%), all of which were inoculated with serotype 6B. There was no statistically significant difference in nasal (p = 0.45) or non-nasal symptoms (p = 0.28) between the inoculation group and the control group. In those who were colonised there was no direct correlation between colonisation density and symptom severity. In the 22% (12/52) who were co-colonised, with pneumococcus and respiratory viruses, there was no statistical difference in either nasal or non-nasal symptoms (virus positive p = 0.74 and virus negative p = 1.0). CONCLUSION: Pneumococcal colonisation using the EHPC model is asymptomatic in healthy adults, regardless of pneumococcal density or viral co-colonisation.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adult, Female, Healthy Volunteers, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Nasal Mucosa, Nasal Provocation Tests, Nose, Pneumococcal Infections, Pneumonia, Pneumococcal, Serogroup, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Symptom Assessment