Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, or pneumococcus, can cause many types of illnesses. Some of these illnesses can be life-threatening.
You have probably heard of pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs. Pneumonia can be caused by many different bacteria, viruses, and even fungi. Pneumococcus is one of the most common causes of severe pneumonia.
Besides pneumonia, pneumococcus can cause other types of infections too, such as:
- Ear infections
- Sinus infections
- Meningitis (infection of the covering around the brain and spinal cord)
- Bacteremia (bloodstream infection)
Some of these infections are considered “invasive.” Invasive disease means that germs invade parts of the body that are normally free from germs. For example, pneumococcal bacteria can invade the bloodstream, causing bacteremia, and the tissues and fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord, causing meningitis. When this happens, the disease is usually very severe, causing hospitalization or even death.