Pneumococcal disease and the new universal vaccination program and vegetarian eating patterns

1 Feb 2005

Pneumococcal diseases are caused by a common bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus). The pneumococcus bacterium has approximately 90 known serotypes, only some of which commonly cause disease.  Eleven serotypes are responsible for most of the disease in infants across the globe, with seven serotypes accounting for the majority of diseases in developed countries. The four remaining serotypes account for a significant proportion of disease in developing countries. S. pneumoniae can be non-invasive or invasive, depending on the infection site.

Non-invasive pneumococcal disease is more common and results in significant morbidity. Non-invasive disease is caused by infection of mucosal tissue, such as the upper respiratory tract, middle ear and sinuses. This can lead to pneumonia, acute otitis media and sinusitis. 

Invasive pneumococcal disease results from dissemination of bacteria into the bloodstream and central nervous system, and can lead to meningitis, bacteraemia and bacteraemic pneumonia. 


'Appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain disease'. While this quote from a position paper from the American Dietetic Association is not a suggestion that everyone become vegetarian it is recognition that vegetarian diets can be satisfactory for all groups in the population, including children. Most families, and others working with children, find some guidelines useful in planning and preparing meals for children; a vegetarian eating pattern does not change the basics of healthy early eating, but there are some different considerations.

For younger children, vegetarian eating is generally part of a family pattern; family eating is a very strong influence on development of children’s eating patterns for life, so this is a good opportunity for the family to have a look at the planning of their own eating. There are occasional children who self-select to be vegetarian from an early age. However, refusal to eat meat by a young child in a meat-eating family is often a part of the normal toddler behaviour of refusing particular foods for a time. In this case it is wise to make no fuss, offer a variety of other foods and ‘wait to see’ before assuming this is a long-term decision.

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