(MENAFN Press) Dubai, UAE, March 2012: World-class specialists in the research, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of pneumococcal disease from across Africa and the Middle East met in Dubai, UAE, to raise the level of urgency about the disease at the annual Africa and Middle East (AfME) Pneumococcal Summit. Pneumococcal disease includes different forms of invasive and non-invasive diseases, among them is pneumonia, one of the leading vaccine-preventable causes of death in infants and children younger than 5 years of age. Pneumonia kills more children under 5 than any other illness in the world. Yet, prevention and care are not properly managed, with only 54 percent of children under the age of 5 with pneumonia taken to a qualified healthcare provider in the developing world.3
Pneumococcal disease remains a significant burden locally and regionally, with pneumonia causing an average of 11 percent of deaths in children under the age of 5 in Jordan.
"Pneumococcal disease continues to be a real threat to our children's lives in Jordan and across Africa and the Middle East. But, this trend doesn't have to continue. We must take proper action to prevent its burden," said Dr Adnan Al-Lahham, Associate Professor at the German-Jordanian University in Amman, Jordan. "It is our duty, as health care providers, parents, family members, and citizens to place prevention at a higher priority. It is our responsibility to protect our most vulnerable citizens who are our future especially given that pneumococcal conjugate vaccines and immunization programs have demonstrated tangible results.2 Effective prevention needs to continue, especially before the age of 5 and thereafter as advised by a healthcare professional. Proper medical attention and access to care are therefore a key part of the overall mix to address pneumococcal disease."
To tackle the widespread prevalence of pneumonia, regional experts examined the burden of pneumococcal disease, and the impact of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) in disease prevention. Thanks to advances in science, governments and healthcare providers have the opportunity to address the burden of pneumococcal disease through the introduction and continuation of routine immunization programs. By leveraging vaccines these programs fight against the most prevalent strains of bacteria, such as 1, 5, 3, 6A, 6B, 14, 18C, 23F and 19A, responsible for causing the disease . Pneumococcal disease describes a group of illnesses caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. There are more than 91 strains, or serotypes, of S. pneumoniae, but only a small subset of strains cause the majority of pneumococcal disease. Ensuring coverage against the most common strains that cause the disease is a priority.
Countries such as the United States, Canada, Norway and Australia have seen invasive pneumococcal disease rates for the vaccine serotypes decrease between 92 and 100 percent with the implementation of a National Immunization Program. Furthermore, these immunization programs are also shown to be cost effective.
"Given the data from other parts of the world, and the evidence we've seen of the cost-effectiveness of routine immunization programs, we view vaccination programs in our region to be of paramount importance," continued Dr Adnan Al-Lahham.
Several classes of antibiotics are active against pneumococci. However, the growing resistance of S. pneumoniae to commonly used antibiotics “ which means an increasing chance that treatment may be less effective - underscores the role of vaccines to help prevent the spread of pneumococcal disease in children up to the age of 5.
"Vaccines which offer the broadest serotype coverage are the key component in the fight against pneumococcal disease and pneumonia," noted Dr Adnan Al-Lahham, Associate Professor at the German-Jordanian University-in Amman. "While treatment is also an option in addressing the disease, the growing resistance to antibiotics means investment in and focus on prevention should be seen as the primary focus. Preventing the financial and emotional toll associated with pneumococcal disease far outweighs treating the disease if contracted."