Impact of the hajj on pneumococcal transmission

Z. A. Memish, A. Assiri, M. Almasri, R. F. Alhakeem, A. Turkestani, A. A. Al Rabeeah, N. Akkad, S. Yezli, K. P. Klugman, K. L. O'Brien, M. van der Linden, B. D. Gessner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Over two million Muslim pilgrims assemble annually in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia, to complete the Hajj. The large number of people in a crowded environment increases the potential for pneumococcal carriage amplification. We evaluated pneumococcal carriage prevalence with four cross-sectional studies conducted at beginning-Hajj (Mecca) and end-Hajj (Mina) during 2011 and 2012. A questionnaire was administered and a nasopharyngeal swab was collected. The swab was tested for pneumococcus, serotype and antibiotic resistance. A total of 3203 subjects (1590 at beginning-Hajj and 1613 at end-Hajj) originating from 18 countries in Africa or Asia were enrolled. The overall pneumococcal carriage prevalence was 6.0%. There was an increase in carriage between beginning-Hajj and end-Hajj cohorts for: overall carriage (4.4% versus 7.5%, prevalence ratio (PR) 1.7, 95% CI 1.3-2.3), and carriage of 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine serotypes (2.3% versus 4.1%, PR 1.8, 95% CI 1.2-2.7), 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) serotypes (1.1% versus 3.6%, PR 3.2, 95% CI 1.9-5.6), 10-valent PCV serotypes (0.6% versus 1.6%, PR 2.6, 95% CI 1.2-5.3), antibiotic non-susceptible isolates (2.5% versus 6.1%, PR 2.5, 95% CI 1.7-3.6) and multiple non-susceptible isolates (0.6% versus 2.2%, PR 3.8, 95% CI 1.8-7.9). Fifty-two different serotypes were identified, most commonly serotypes 3 (17%), 19F (5%) and 34 (5%). These results suggest that the Hajj may increase pneumococcal carriage-particularly conjugate vaccine serotypes and antibiotic non-susceptible strains, although the exact mechanism remains unknown. The Hajj may therefore provide a mechanism for the global distribution of pneumococci.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77.e11-77.e18
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Carriage
  • Hajj
  • Pneumococcus
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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