Each year over two million children die of Pneumonia, the forgotton child killer,

Dubai, UAE, March 24,2010:More than 200 world class specialists in the research, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Pneumococcal disease (PD),today attended the first Africa and Middle East (AfME)Pneumococcal Congress held in Dubai, UAE.

The Conference was dedicated to discussing the incidence of invasive Pneumococcal disease, highlighting the burden of Pneumonia and the role of vaccination programs in AfME countries as well as discussing protection of children from pneumonia meningitis through the introduction of new vaccines.

In the United Arab Emirates, five per cent deaths in children’s less than five years of age are caused by pneumonia. The introduction of the vaccine means that the 76,000 babies born each year in UAE will have supported protection from invasive pneumococcal disease – the leading vaccine-preventable cause of death in young children worldwide that kills and disables infants by causing meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis and bacteremia.

Pneumococcal disease describes a group of illnesses caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. The bacteria colonize the upper respiratory tract and can spread to other sites in the body, resulting in several different types of disease: invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) and non invasive pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal disease is a major cause of mortality and morbidity and is estimated by the WHO to cause up to 1.6 million younger than five years of age in the developing world.

Several classes of antibiotics are active against pneumococcal; however ,the growing resistance of S. pneumoniae to commonly used antibiotics underscores the need for vaccines to be used to help prevent pneumococcal disease for children up to five years of age. S. pneumoniae accounts for a substantial portion of the estimated two million deaths from pneumonia occurring in children each year.

The WHO identified pneumonia as one of the leading causes of death in newborns and children fewer than five years. Pneumonia alone accounts for 19 per cent of death in children fewer than five years worldwide.

There are more than 90 strains (serotypes) of S.pneumoniae, but only a small subset of strains cause the majority of pneumococcal disease. Serotype 19A is an important cause of pneumococcal disease, and recent data have reported increasing rates of disease caused by serotype 19A around the world.

In addition, recent studies suggest that some antibiotic-resistant strains of serotype 19A are emerging. Serotype represents now around 36 per cent of invasive pneumococcal disease in USA in children under five years and from 5-20 per cent in most of European countries.

“Antibiotic resistance is now a serious public health concern with economic, social and political implications that are global in scope”. Said Dr. Mona Al Mosawi, chief of Disease Control Section, Ministry of Health, and Bahrain during the congress. “The WHO has acknowledged that vaccines offer the best hope for combating resistance by reducing the number of infected individuals and thereby minimizing transmission, infection and need for treatment. This can reduce the need for antibiotics, which in turn can reduce the selection for and spread for resistant microbes” she added.

Based on the success of this year’s congress and demands from around 200 attending delegates from around the region, The Africa and Middle East Pneumococcal Congress is expected to become an annual event.