Background. Pneumonia remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality among South African (SA) children. Improved immunisation regimens, strengthening of HIV programmes, better socioeconomic conditions and new preventive strategies have influenced the epidemiology of pneumonia. Furthermore, sensitive diagnostic tests and better sampling methods in young children improve aetiological diagnosis.
Objectives. To summarise current information on childhood community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) epidemiology and aetiology in children as part of the revised South African Thoracic Society guidelines.
Methods. The Paediatric Assembly of the South African Thoracic Society and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases expert subgroup on epidemiology and aetiology revised the existing SA guidelines.The subgroup reviewed the published evidence in their area; in the absence of evidence, expert opinion was accepted. Evidence was graded using the British Thoracic Society (BTS) grading system, and the relevant section underwent peer review.
Results. Respiratory viruses, particularly respiratory syncytial virus, are the key pathogens associated with hospitalisation for radiologically confirmed pneumonia in HIV-uninfected children. Opportunistic organisms, including Pneumocystis jirovecii, are important pathogens in HIV-infected infants, while non-typable Haemophilus influenzae and Staphylococcus aureus are important in older HIV-infected children. Co-infections with bacteria or other respiratory viruses are common in hospitalised children. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is common in children hospitalised with CAP in SA.
Conclusions. Numerous public health measures, including changes in immunisation schedules and expansion of HIV prevention and treatment programmes, have influenced the epidemiology and aetiology of CAP in SA children. These changes have necessitated a revision of the South African Paediatric CAP guidelines, further sections of which will be published as part of a CME series in SAMJ.