Infection and co-infection patterns of community-acquired pneumonia in patients of different ages in China from 2009 to 2020: a national surveillance study

Published March 28, 2023, in The Lancet Microbe (opens in a new window)



Severe community-acquired pneumonia (SCAP) is associated with a substantial number of hospitalisations and deaths worldwide. Infection or co-infection patterns, along with their age dependence and clinical effects are poorly understood. We aimed to explore the causal and epidemiological characteristics by age, to better describe patterns of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) and their association with severe disease.


National surveillance of CAP was conducted through a network of hospitals in 30 provinces in China from 2009–20 inclusive. Patients with CAP were included if they had evidence of acute respiratory tract, had evidence of pneumonia by chest radiography, diagnosis of pneumonia within 24 h of hospital admission, and resided in the study catchment area. For the enrolled patients with CAP, nasopharyngeal and oral swabs were taken and tested for eight viral pathogens; and blood, urine, or expectorated sputum was tested for six bacterial pathogens. Clinical outcomes, including SCAP, were investigated with respect to age and patterns of infections or co-infections by performing binary logistic regression and multivariate analysis.


Between January, 2009, and December, 2020, 18 807 patients with CAP (3771 [20·05%] with SCAP) were enrolled. For both children (aged ≤5 years) and older adults (aged >60 years), a higher overall rate of viral and bacterial infections, as well as viral–bacterial co-infections were seen in patients with SCAP than in patients with non-SCAP. For adults (aged 18–60 years), however, only a higher rate of bacterial–bacterial co-infection was observed. The most frequent pathogens associated with SCAP were respiratory syncytial virus (RSV; 21·30%) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (12·61%) among children, and influenza virus (10·94%) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (15·37%) among older adults. Positive rates of detection of most of the tested pathogens decreased during 2020 compared with the 2009−19 period, except for RSV, P aeruginosa, and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Multivariate analyses showed SCAP was significantly associated with infection with human adenovirus, human rhinovirus, K pneumoniae, or co-infection of RSV and Haemophilus influenzae or RSV and Staphylococcus aureus in children and adolescents (aged <18 years), and significantly associated with infection with P aeruginosa, K pneumoniae, or S pneumoniae, or co-infection with P aeruginosa and K pneumoniae in adults (aged ≥18 years).


Both prevalence and infection pattern of respiratory pathogens differed between patients with SCAP and patients with non-SCAP in an age-dependent manner. These findings suggest potential advantages to age-related strategies for vaccine schedules, as well as clinical diagnosis, treatment, and therapy.


China Mega-Project on Infectious Disease Prevention and The National Natural Science Funds of China.

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Lui Y-N, Zhang Y-F, Xu Q, et al. Infection and co-infection patterns of community-acquired pneumonia in patients of different ages in China from 2009 to 2020: a national surveillance study. The Lancet Microbe. 28 March 2023. doi: 10.1016/S2666-5247(23)00031-9.


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