Background: Outbreaks and sporadic cases of pneumococcal illness occur among young adults in confined settings. Our aim was to characterize pneumococcal acquisition and carriage among healthy young adults in Israel during military training in confined settings. Methods: During the years 2007-2008, an observational longitudinal study was conducted in three cohorts of healthy soldiers, during a 7-month basic training period. Epidemiological data, oropharyngeal and nasopharyngeal cultures were sampled on 5 occasions: before and 3, 6, 12 and 24 weeks after start of training. Samples were processed within 2-18 hours. Relatedness of isolates was investigated by capsular typing of all isolates and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis to determine acquisition and transmission. Carriage and acquisition patterns were analyzed and multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed to assess the impact of time on acquisition after mixing, controlling for other covariates. Results: Pneumococci were recovered on 202 of 1872 visits among 742 individuals, including 40 different serotypes. Mean carriage prevalence increased in all visits following training initiation. Acquisition during training was high, as 36.9% of individuals acquired pneumococci at least once during training, and for almost one fourth of the whole population this occurred during the first 6 weeks. Significant clustering was noted. Sharing drinking glass/bottle was found to be a significant and common risk factor for pneumococcal acquisition. Conclusions: Pneumococcal acquisition is highly frequent when young adults live in close contact in confined settings, especially early after mixing.
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