Childhood pneumonia and meningitis in the Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea in the era of conjugate vaccines: study methods and challenges

Blyth, Christopher C., Ford, Rebecca, Sapura, Joycelyn, Kumani, Tonny, Masiria, Geraldine, Kave, John, Yuasi, Lapule, Greenhill, Andrew, Hwaihwanje, Ilomo, Lang, Amamda, Lehmann, Deborah, Pomat, William, and Papua New Guinea Pneumonia and Meningitis Etiology Study Team, (2017) Childhood pneumonia and meningitis in the Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea in the era of conjugate vaccines: study methods and challenges. Pneumonia, 9. p. 5.

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Background: Pneumonia and meningitis are common causes of severe childhood illness in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The etiology of both clinical conditions in PNG has not been recently assessed. Changes in lifestyle, provision and access to healthcare, antimicrobial utilization and resistance, and the national childhood vaccination schedule necessitate reassessment.

Methods: A prospective case-control study was undertaken, enrolling children <5 years of age to determine the contemporary etiology of clinically defined moderate or severe pneumonia or suspected meningitis. Cases were identified following presentation for inpatient or outpatient care in Goroka town, the major population centre in the Eastern Highlands Province. Following enrolment, routine diagnostic specimens including blood, nasopharyngeal swabs, urine and (if required) cerebrospinal fluid, were obtained. Cases residing within one hour's drive of Goroka were followed up, and recruitment of healthy contemporaneous controls was undertaken in the cases' communities.

Results: 998 cases and 978 controls were enrolled over 3 years. This included 784 cases (78.6%) with moderate pneumonia, 187 (18.7%) with severe pneumonia and 75 (7.5%) with suspected meningitis, of whom 48 (4.8%) had concurrent pneumonia. The median age of cases was 7.8 months (Interquartile range [IQR] 3.9–14.3), significantly lower than community controls, which was 20.8 months (IQR 8.2–36.4). Half the cases were admitted to hospital (500/998; 50.1%). Recruitment of cases and controls and successful collection of diagnostic specimens improved throughout the study, with blood volume increasing and rates of blood culture contamination decreasing. The overall case fatality rate was 18/998 (1.8%). Of cases eligible for follow-up, outcome data was available from 76.7%. Low but increasing coverage of Haemophilus influenzae type B conjugate vaccines on the national schedule was observed during the study period: three dose DTPw-HepB-Hib coverage in children >3 months increased from 14.9 to 43.0% and 29.0 to 47.7% in cases and controls (both p < 0.001). Despite inclusion in the national immunization program in 2014, 2015 PCV13 three-dose coverage in cases and controls >3 months was only 4.0 and 6.5%.

Conclusions: Recruitment of large numbers of pediatric pneumonia and meningitis cases and community controls in a third-world setting presents unique challenges. Successful enrolment of 998 cases and 978 controls with comprehensive clinical data, biological specimens and follow up was achieved. Increased vaccine coverage remains an ongoing health priority.

Item ID: 65358
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2200-6133
Keywords: Pneumonia, Meningitis, Papua New Guinea,Streptococcus pneumoniae,Haemophilus influenzae, Vaccination
Copyright Information: © The Author(s). 2017 Open Acces sThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, andreproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link tothe Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Additional Information:

Paul Horwood is a part of the Papua New Guinea Pneumonia and Meningitis Etiology Study Team, all authors are listed at the end of the article.

Funders: Pfizer Global Research (PGR), Papua New Guinea Institute for Medical Research, National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC)
Projects and Grants: PGR Grant (WS1801400), NHMRC APP1111596
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2021 23:15
FoR Codes: 32 BIOMEDICAL AND CLINICAL SCIENCES > 3202 Clinical sciences > 320211 Infectious diseases @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9201 Clinical Health (Organs, Diseases and Abnormal Conditions) > 920109 Infectious Diseases @ 100%
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