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BackgroundPneumococcal disease is a leading cause of bacterial pneumonia and invasive bacterial disease among children globally. The reason some strains of pneumococci are more likely to cause disease, and how interventions such as vaccines and antibiotics affect pneumococcal strains is poorly understood. We aimed to identify genetic regions under selective pressure and those associated with disease through the analysis of pneumococcal whole-genome sequences.MethodsWhole-genome sequencing was performed on pneumococcal isolates collected between January, 2005, and May, 2018, in Kathmandu, Nepal, which included programmatic ten-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV10) introduction in 2015. Isolates were from three distinct cohorts: nasopharyngeal swabs of healthy community-based children, nasopharyngeal swabs of children admitted to hospital with pneumonia, and sterile-site cultures from children admitted to hospital. Across these cohorts we examined serotype distribution, antibiotic resistance, strain distribution, and regions of recombination to determine genes that were undergoing diversifying selection. Genome-wide association studies comparing pneumonia and sterile-site isolates with healthy carriage were used to determine novel variants associated with disease.FindingsAfter programmatic introduction of PCV10, there was a decline in vaccine covered serotypes; however, strains that had expressed these serotypes continued to exist in the post-PCV population. We identified GPSC9 to be a strain of concern due to its high prevalence in disease, multidrug resistance, and ability to switch to an unencapsulated phenotype via insertion of virulence factor pspC into the cps locus. Antibiotic resistance loci to co-trimoxazole were found to be prevalent (pre-PCV10 78% vs post-PCV10 81%; p=0·27) and increasingly prevalent to penicillin (pre-PCV10 15% vs post-PCV10 32%; p<0·0001). Regions with multiple recombinations were identified spanning the surface protein virulence factors pspA and pspC and antibiotic targets pbpX, folA, folC, folE, and folP. Furthermore, we identified variants in lacE2 to be strongly associated with isolates from children with pneumonia and PRIP to be strongly associated with isolates from sterile sites.InterpretationOur work highlights the effect of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, antibiotics, and host-pathogen interaction in pneumococcal variation, and the pathogen's capability of adapting to these factors at both population-wide and strain-specific levels. Ongoing surveillance of disease-associated strains and further investigation of lacE2 and PRIP as serotype-independent targets for therapeutic interventions is required.FundingGavi, The Vaccine Alliance; WHO; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Wellcome Sanger Institute; and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Original publication




Journal article


The Lancet. Microbe

Publication Date





e503 - e511


School of Women and Children's Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia; Oxford Vaccine Group, Department of Paediatrics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Oxford, UK. Electronic address:


Humans, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Vaccines, Conjugate, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Vaccination, Carrier State, United States, Nepal, Genome-Wide Association Study