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  IN THIS Article
 ::  Abstract
 ::  Introduction
 ::  Why are Diabetic...
 ::  Prevention of Pn...
 ::  Efficacy of the ...
 ::  Safety of the Va...
 ::  Contraindication...
 ::  Worldwide Recomm...
 ::  Indian Recommend...
 ::  Revaccination
 ::  Should All Diabe...
 ::  Recommendations
 ::  References

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  Table of Contents     
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 57  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 78-81

Pneumococcal infections and immunization in diabetic patients

1 Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre & Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, Chennai, India
2 Christian Medical College, Vellore, India
3 Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh, India
4 Apollo Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Endocrinology, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission21-Sep-2009
Date of Decision30-Jun-2010
Date of Acceptance14-Sep-2010
Date of Web Publication31-Jan-2011

Correspondence Address:
V Mohan
Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre & Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, Chennai
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0022-3859.74299

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 :: Abstract 

India is today facing a diabetes epidemic and has the maximum number of patients with diabetes in the world. People with diabetes are more prone to develop all types of infections. Pneumococcal infections are a common cause of morbidity and mortality, and people with diabetes are more prone to develop pneumococcal infections. With the availability of the pneumococcal vaccine, most international organizations now recommend that people with diabetes should be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. This article tries to provide a balanced review of the place of pneumococcal vaccination in Indian diabetic patients.

Keywords: Diabetes, immunization, pneumococcal vaccination

How to cite this article:
Mohan V, Unnikrishnan R, Thomas N, Bhansali A, Wangnoo S K, Thomas K. Pneumococcal infections and immunization in diabetic patients. J Postgrad Med 2011;57:78-81

How to cite this URL:
Mohan V, Unnikrishnan R, Thomas N, Bhansali A, Wangnoo S K, Thomas K. Pneumococcal infections and immunization in diabetic patients. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2011 [cited 2023 Jun 1];57:78-81. Available from:

 :: Introduction Top

Diabetes is a chronic illness that requires lifelong medical care, both for control of metabolic derangements and prevention of infective and vascular complications. The two major types of diabetes are type-1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus, which is due to a T-cell driven autoimmune destruction of insulin producing cells in the pancreatic islets, and type-2 (noninsulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus, which is characterized by insulin resistance, often associated with other features such as obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and accelerated arteriosclerosis.

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is rapidly increasing in direct proportion to urbanization, increasing obesity, physical inactivity and aging of the population. In India, 50.8 million people are already affected by diabetes and this is expected to increase to 87 million by 2030. [1]

 :: Why are Diabetic Patients at Risk for Infections? Top

Patients with diabetes have higher risk for bacterial and viral infections leading to complications and high morbidity and mortality. Clinically, the most important infections are preventable bacterial infections of the skin, the urinary tract, and the respiratory tract. [2] It has been assumed that specific aberrations in host defense mechanisms (antibody response, cell-mediated immunity, leukocyte function, and colonization rates) account for the increased case fatality rate which results from bacterial and viral infections such as influenza and pneumococcus. [3] Other factors associated with diabetes (age, renal disease, and cardiovascular disease) have been shown to be significant co-morbid factors that can increase the risk of sequel of certain infections. [3]

Diabetes mellitus has been identified as an independent risk factor for developing respiratory tract infections. [4] There are no data on the burden of lower respiratory infections in India. World Health Organization (WHO) data from low and middle income countries suggest that lower respiratory tract infections remain the third leading cause of death. [5] Streptococcus pneumoniae remains the major cause of pneumonia in spite of widespread vaccination. [6] Apart from pneumonia and its complications, viz., empyema and lung abscess, the pneumococcus also causes other clinical syndromes such as sinusitis, otitis media, tracheobronchitis, bacteremia, meningitis and peritonitis, some of which have high case fatality rates. [3],[6] Diabetes is a well-known risk factor for pneumococcal infection and predisposes individuals to nasopharyngeal colonization with the pneumococcus which is associated with invasive infection. [7]

Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common form of acute bacterial community acquired pneumonia. [8] Bacteremia is seen in nearly 30% (8-50%) of individuals with pneumococcal infections, and of these, 15-20% are fatal despite treatment with antibiotics. [7] Also, there are several studies which show that diabetes is one of the most common co-morbidities in patients with pneumococcal infection. [9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14]

 :: Prevention of Pneumococcal Disease Top

Assessment of the burden of disease due to vaccine-preventable disorders clearly shows that pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of death in all age groups. [15] The high case fatality rate from bacteremic pneumococcal disease demands effective preventive strategies including immuno-prophylactic measures. Diabetic patients have a normal response to pneumococcal vaccination, and vaccination is a cost-effective preventive strategy. [2],[16] Immunization with Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPV, which includes 23 purified capsular polysaccharide antigens representing 85-90% of the serotypes of S. pneumoniae) in diabetic patients significantly reduces morbidity and mortality related to pneumococcal disease. [17]

The 23 valent PPV (PPV23) can be given as a subcutaneous or intramuscular injection (preferably in the deltoid muscle or lateral mid thigh). The serotypes included in the vaccine are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6B, 7F, 8, 9N, 9V, 10A, 11A, 12F, 14, 15B, 17F, 18C, 19A, 19F, 20, 22F, 23F and 33F. One dose (0.5 ml) of 23 valent vaccine contains 25 mcg of each polysaccharide antigen dissolved in isotonic solution with phenol (0.25%) or thiomersol (0.01%) added as preservative. The six serotypes that cause invasive drug resistant pneumococcal infections (6B, 9V, 14, 19A, 19F and 23F) are represented in the 23 valent vaccine. [18]

The antibody response after a single dose of PPV begins 7-10 days after vaccination; IgM antibodies are the first to appear but can be measured only for a few months. IgG antibodies develop slowly, with a concentration peak even after 70-100 days, and are long lasting, thereby providing long-term immunity. [19]

Pneumococcal capsular polysaccharide antigens induce type specific antibodies that enhance opsonization, phagocytosis and subsequent killing of pneumococcus by leukocytes and phagocytes. The antigen-specific antibody response is indicated by a twofold or greater rise in serotype specific antibody developing in 2-3 weeks in greater than 80% of healthy young adults. [18] The levels of antibody that correlate with protection have not been defined.

In the recent wake of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an interim guidance on use of 23 valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. During influenza outbreaks, pneumococcal vaccines may be useful in preventing secondary pneumococcal infections and reducing illness and death. CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends a single dose of PPSV23 for all people 65 years and older and for persons 2-64 years of age with certain high-risk conditions. [20]

 :: Efficacy of the Vaccine Top

In a study by Butler et al., [21] the efficacy of PPV23 (as a percentage of the reduction in the risk of infections from serotypes included in the vaccine among vaccinated individuals compared with unvaccinated individuals) was found to be 84% in diabetic patients. A recent nested case control study from India conducted among older adults at high risk of developing pneumococcal infection showed that PPV23 provides significant protection with odds ratios of 0.2, 0.25 and 0.33 against recurrent lower respiratory infections, exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and hospitalizations, respectively. [22]

 :: Safety of the Vaccine Top

The vaccine is generally safe, but mild local side effects may be seen. Injection site reactions consisting of pain, soreness, erythema, warmth, local indurations occur. [18] Fever is the most common side effect. The clinical experience over three decades has shown that pneumococcal vaccine is generally safe. PPV23 is indicated for vaccination against pneumococcal disease caused by those pneumococcal types included in the vaccine. [18] The vaccine does not prevent development of disease by types of pneumococcus other than those found in the vaccine.

 :: Contraindication to the Vaccine Top

The vaccine is contraindicated in persons who are hypersensitive to any component of the vaccine.

 :: Worldwide Recommendations on Use of Pneumococcal Vaccination Top

Worldwide bodies like ACIP, American Diabetes Association (ADA), American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia), Canadian Medical Association, and Australia-New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine recommend at least one dose of pneumococcal vaccine for adults with diabetes in their lifetime. [23],[24],[25],[26],[27]

 :: Indian Recommendations Top

The Geriatric Society of India recommends the use of PPV for

  • persons aged 50 years and above and
  • persons aged 2 years or above with certain underlying medical conditions such as diabetes. [18]

 :: Revaccination Top

A one-time revaccination is recommended by the ADA and ACIP for individuals >64 years of age, previously immunized when they were <65 years of age, if the vaccine was administered >5 years ago. [23],[24]

 :: Should All Diabetic Patients Receive Pneumococcal Vaccination? Top

Diabetes is in itself a risk factor for invasive pneumococcal infection. In addition, there exist a substantial number of diabetic patients who have other co-morbidities like renal complications, coronary artery disease, COPD, chronic liver disease, malignancies, etc. For this subset of diabetic patients, pneumococcal vaccination should be recommended on priority by virtue of being at more risk than those with diabetes alone. The proceedings of a meeting of the status on Adult Immunization in India were recently published under the auspices of the Association of Physicians of India which includes a section on pneumococcal vaccinations in India. [7] The authors state that pneumococcal vaccine is not recommended at present in India and make some statements in support of their view.

It is, however, probably not fair to state that on account of absence of data on pneumococcal disease in India, vaccination is not recommended. A recent nested case control study from South India clearly showed more than 80% protection by PPV23 against lower respiratory tract infections in the elderly, including those with diabetes. [22]

 :: Recommendations Top

In the absence of substantial published data on pneumococcal disease in India, we would recommend the following guidelines regarding pneumococcal vaccination in people with diabetes in India.

  • To collect as much data on the incidence of pneumococcal disease as possible from different parts of India, particularly in people with diabetes.
  • Until these data become available, to inform all diabetic patients that pneumococcal vaccination is available and discuss the options of vaccination with them.
  • To recommend pneumococcal vaccination at least for those diabetic patients at increased risk, e.g., older patients (>50 years of age), those with nephropathy or renal insufficiency or other co-morbidities, e.g., malignancy.
  • To do studies in India on the effect of pneumococcal vaccination in those with diabetes.
  • Assess cost-effectiveness of the vaccine in diabetes.

 :: References Top

1.International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes Atlas. In: Unwin N, Whiting D, Gan D, Jacqmain O, Ghyoot G, editors. IDF Diabetes Atlas. 4 th ed. Belgium: International Diabetes Federation; 2009. p. 11-3.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Joshi N, Caputo GM, Weitekamp MR, Karchmer AW. Infections in patients with diabetes mellitus. N Engl J Med 1999;341:1906-12.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Smith SA, Poland GA. Use of influenza and Pneumococcal vaccines in people with diabetes. Diabetes Care 2000;23:95-108.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Akbar DH. Bacterial pneumonia: Comparison between diabetics and non-diabetics. Acta Diabetol 2001;38:77-82.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Mather CD, Lopez AD, Murray CJ. The burden of disease and mortality by condition: Data, methods, and results for 2001. In: Lopez AD, Mathers CD, Ezzati M, Jamison DT, Murray CJ, editors. Global burden of disease and risk factors. Washington DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank; 2006. p. 45-240.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Musher DM. Pneumococcal infections. In: Kasper DL, Braunwald E, Fauci AS, Hauser SL, Longo DL, Jameson JL, editors. Harrison′s principles of internal medicine. 16th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2005. p. 806-14.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Sharma SK, Kadhiravan T. Pneumoccoccal vaccine. In: Sharma SK, Singal RK, Agarwal AK, editors. Adult Immunization. 1 st ed. Mumbai: A publication of the Association of Physicians of India; 2009. p. 146-50.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.WHO recommended measures for persons undertaking international travel from areas affected by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Wkly Epidemiol Rec 2003;78:97-9.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Kyaw MH, Rose CE Jr, Fry AM, Singleton JA, Moore Z, Zell ER, et al. The influence of chronic illnesses on the incidence of invasive pneumococcal disease in adults. J Infect Dis 2005;192:377-86.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Vila-Cσrcoles A, Ochoa-Gondar O, Hospital I, Ansa X, Vilanova A, Rodrνguez T, et al. Protective effects of the 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine in the elderly population: The EVAN-65 study. Clin Infect Dis 2006;43:860-8.   Back to cited text no. 10
11.Sue DY. Community acquired pneumonia in adults. West J Med 1994;161:383-9.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Reechaipichitkul W, Tantiwong P. Clinical features of community-acquired pneumonia treated at Srinagarind Hospital, Khon Kaen, Thailand. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health 2002;33:355-61.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Gutierrez F, Masia M, Rodrύguez JC, Mirete C, Soldan B, Padilla S, et al. Epidemiology of community-acquired pneumonia in adult patients at the dawn of the 21 st century: A prospective study on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Clin Microbiol Infect 2005;11:788-800.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Cabellos C, Verdaguer R, Olmo M, Fernandez-Sabe N, Cisnal M, Ariza J, et al. Community-acquired bacterial meningitis in elderly patients -experience over 30 years. Medicine 2009;88:115-9.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.WHO Official Mortality Rates, 2003, cited in and adapted from Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. Speeding access to new, life-saving vaccines: GAVI′s pneumococcal and rotavirus ADIPs. Available from: [last accessed on 2009 Oct 5].  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Chen YH, Yang GY, Loh CH, Liou SH, Su WL, Lin SH, et al. Cost benefits of targeting the Pneumococcal Vaccination Program to the elderly population in Taiwan. Am J Infect Control 2006;34:597-9.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Smith SA, Poland GA. American Diabetes Association. Influenza and Pneumococcal immunization in diabetes. Diabetes Care 2004;27:S111-3.  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Guidelines for the use of Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine in India. A guide for geriatricians, chest physicians, internists, family physicians 2008. Developed by Geriatric Society of India.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.Braido F, Bellotti M, De Maria A, Cazzola M, Canonica GW. The role of Pneumococcal vaccine. Pulm Pharmacol Ther 2008;21:608-15.  Back to cited text no. 19
20.Interim guidance for use of 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine during novel influenza A (H1N1) outbreak. Centers for disease control and prevention. Available from: [last accessed on 2010 Aug 16].   Back to cited text no. 20
21.Butler JC, Breiman RF, Campbell JF, Lipman HB, Broome CV, Facklam RR. Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine efficacy: An evaluation of current recommendations. JAMA 1993;270:1826-31.  Back to cited text no. 21
22.Surya E, Thomas K. Efficacy of 23-valent pneumoccal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) in adults at high risk of pneumococcal infection: A Nested Case Control Study. Natl Med J India;2010 [In press]  Back to cited text no. 22
23.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vaccination levels among Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites aged>or =65 years -- Los Angeles County, California, 1996. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 1997;46:1165-8.  Back to cited text no. 23
24.American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes--2008. Diabetes Care 2008;31:S12-54.  Back to cited text no. 24
25.The Australian Immunization Handbook. 8 th ed. Available from: [last accessed on 2010 Aug 16].  Back to cited text no. 25
26.Canadian Immunization Guide, 6th ed., 2002. Available from: [last accessed on 2010 Aug 16].  Back to cited text no. 26
27.Australian Society for Geriatric Medicine, Position Statement No. 7, Immunisation of Older People - Revision, Revised 2004. Available from: pdf [last accessed on 2010 Aug 16].  Back to cited text no. 27

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2004 - Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
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