Impact of bacterial pneumonias on world child health.
Lower respiratory infections (LRIs) are estimated to cause approximately 4 million deaths each year, the majority in previously healthy young children from low-income countries. Bacterial pneumonias are likely to account for the major proportion of deaths but because accurate diagnosis is difficult, their precise contribution is difficult to estimate. Effective protection against two of the most important pathogens (H. influenzae type B and S. pneumoniae) is now available even for young infants. The high cost of these interventions is however likely to prohibit their use in areas likely to benefit most. Case management which can be effective at reducing mortality and which is relatively cheap at present is likely therefore to remain the principal means of tackling bacterial pneumonias globally. Antibiotic resistance to cheap drugs and possibly HIV infection pose a potentially enormous threat to this strategy with the prospect of an increasing global death toll with an even more inequitable distribution of disease as we begin the new century.