Designing ecologically optimized pneumococcal vaccines using population genomics

Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus) is a common nasopharyngeal commensal that can cause invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD). Each component of current protein–polysaccharide conjugate vaccines (PCVs) generally induces immunity specific to one of the approximately 100 pneumococcal serotypes, and typically eliminates it from carriage and IPD through herd immunity. Overall carriage rates remain stable owing to replacement by non-PCV serotypes. Consequently, the net change in IPD incidence is determined by the relative invasiveness of the pre- and post-PCV-carried pneumococcal populations. In the present study, we identified PCVs expected to minimize the post-vaccine IPD burden by applying Bayesian optimization to an ecological model of serotype replacement that integrated epidemiological and genomic data. We compared optimal formulations for reducing infant-only or population-wide IPD, and identified potential benefits to including non-conserved pneumococcal carrier proteins. Vaccines were also devised to minimize IPD resistant to antibiotic treatment, despite the ecological model assuming that resistance levels in the carried population would be preserved. We found that expanding infant-administered PCV valency is likely to result in diminishing returns, and that complementary pairs of infant- and adult-administered vaccines could be a superior strategy. PCV performance was highly dependent on the circulating pneumococcal population, further highlighting the advantages of a diversity of anti-pneumococcal vaccination strategies.