Identifying human encounters that shape the transmission of Streptococcus pneumoniae and other acute respiratory infections
Authorsle Polain de Waroux, O
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AbstractAlthough patterns of social contacts are believed to be an important determinant of infectious disease transmission, it remains unclear how the frequency and nature of human interactions shape an individual's risk of infection. We analysed data on daily social encounters individually matched to data on S. pneumoniae carriage and acute respiratory symptoms (ARS), from 566 individuals who took part in a survey in South-West Uganda. We found that the frequency of physical (i.e. skin-to-skin), long (≥1 h) and household contacts - which capture some measure of close (i.e. relatively intimate) contact - was higher among pneumococcal carriers than non-carriers, and among people with ARS compared to those without, irrespective of their age. With each additional physical encounter the age-adjusted risk of carriage and ARS increased by 6% (95%CI 2-9%) and 7% (2-13%) respectively. In contrast, the number of casual contacts (<5 min long) was not associated with either pneumococcal carriage or ARS. A detailed analysis by age of contacts showed that the number of close contacts with young children (<5 years) was particularly higher among older children and adult carriers than non-carriers, while the higher number of contacts among people suffering from ARS was more homogeneous across contacts of all ages. Our findings provide key evidence that the frequency of close interpersonal contact is important for transmission of respiratory infections, but not that of casual contacts. Those results are essential for both improving disease prevention and control efforts as well as informing research on infectious disease dynamics and transmission models, and more studies should be undertaken to further validate our results.