S. pneumoniae, the bacterium, is most commonly found in the throat and nose (nasopharynx) of infants and young children. They may also exist in the nasopharynx of adults, but this is less likely.
The bacterium spreads from person-to-person via respiratory droplets - if the infected person coughs or sneezes in close proximity to other people, the other people may become infected.
You cannot become infected by consuming contaminated food or water. The bacterium spreads in droplets of water in the air only.
In the majority of cases the bacteria do not cause symptoms, because a healthy person’s immune system stops any infection from moving from the throat to other parts of the body.
If somebody has a weakened immune system the bacteria have a better chance of moving from the throat to the lungs, blood, sinuses, middle ear, or the brain, which can lead to to a much more serious infection.
Disclaimer: The Pneumococcal Disease informational section on Medical News Today is funded by an educational grant from Wyeth and is regularly reviewed and updated. This guide is provided for general information purposes only. The materials contained within this guide do not constitute medical or pharmaceutical advice, which should be sought from qualified medical and pharmaceutical advisers.
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