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

Papua New Guinea Pneumonia

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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

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.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberUNSP 5
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2017


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