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What is pneumococcal disease?

Page last updated 24 June 2022

Pneumococcal disease refers to the group of illnesses that can be caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium commonly known as pneumococcus. 



Most pneumococcal infections are mild, however some can cause serious disease, complications and even death.

From the upper airways, pneumococcus can cause infections in different parts of the body, such as the ear (otitis media, one of the most common pneumococcal diseases in children), sinuses, joints or bone. Sometimes it causes serious illness like:

  • meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain)
  • pneumonia (infection of the lungs – one of the most common pneumococcal diseases in adults)
  • bacteraemia (presence of bacteria in the blood)

In adults, pneumonia accounts for more than one-third of pneumonia in the community.

In children, middle ear infection is a common complication. In fact pneumococcus is the main cause of middle ear infection in children, found in 28-55% of cases. Although the least common presentation in children, pneumococcal meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain) is a serious complication.

Sources & Citations

2. Victorian Government. Better Health. Pneumococcal disease. Available at: (accessed 27 May 2022).

3. Australian Government. Department of Health. Pneumococcal disease. Available at: (accessed 27 May 2022).

MAT-AU-2201301 (v1.0)   Date of preparation June 2022