Background: There is a clinical need for more objective methods of identifying patients at risk for septic shock and poorer outcomes among those with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). As viral load is useful in viral infections, we hypothesized that bacterial load may be associated with outcomes in patients with pneumococcal pneumonia.Methods: Quantification of Streptococcus pneumoniae DNA level by real-time polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR) was prospectively conducted on whole-blood samples from a cohort of 353 patients who were displaying CAP symptoms upon their admission to the ED.Results: CAP caused by S pneumoniae was documented in 93 patients (36.5% with positive blood culture findings). A positive S pneumoniae rt-PCR assay finding was associated with a statistically significant higher mortality (odds ratio [OR], 7.08), risk for shock (OR, 6.29), and the need for mechanical ventilation (MV) [OR, 7.96]. Logistic regression, adjusted for age, sex, comorbidities, and pneumonia severity index class, revealed bacterial load as independently associated with septic shock (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 2.42; 95% CI, 1.10 to 5.80) and the need for MV (aOR, 2.71; 95% CI, 1.17 to 6.27). An S pneumoniae bacterial load of ≥ 103 copies per milliliter occurred in 29.0% of patients (27 of 93 patients; 95% CI, 20.8 to 38.9%) being associated with a statistically significant higher risk for septic shock (OR, 8.00), the need for MV (OR, 10.50), and hospital mortality (OR, 5.43).Conclusion: In patients with pneumococcal pneumonia, bacterial load is associated with the likelihood of death, the risk of septic shock, and the need for MV. High genomic bacterial load for S pneumoniae may be a useful tool for severity assessment.