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Streptococcus pneumoniae causes substantial mortality among children under 5-years-old worldwide. Polysaccharide conjugate vaccines (PCVs) are highly effective at reducing vaccine serotype disease, but emergence of non-vaccine serotypes and persistent nasopharyngeal carriage threaten this success. We investigated the hypothesis that following vaccine, adapted pneumococcal genotypes emerge with the potential for vaccine escape. We genome sequenced 2804 penumococcal isolates, collected 4-8 years after introduction of PCV13 in Blantyre, Malawi. We developed a pipeline to cluster the pneumococcal population based on metabolic core genes into "Metabolic genotypes" (MTs). We show that S. pneumoniae population genetics are characterised by emergence of MTs with distinct virulence and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) profiles. Preliminary in vitro and murine experiments revealed that representative isolates from emerging MTs differed in growth, haemolytic, epithelial infection, and murine colonisation characteristics. Our results suggest that in the context of PCV13 introduction, pneumococcal population dynamics had shifted, a phenomenon that could further undermine vaccine control and promote spread of AMR.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Child, Humans, Animals, Mice, Infant, Child, Preschool, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Pneumococcal Infections, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Malawi, Virulence, Drug Resistance, Bacterial, Pneumococcal Vaccines, Serogroup, Nasopharynx, Carrier State