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Many pneumonia etiology case-control studies exclude controls with respiratory illness from enrollment or analyses. Herein we argue that selecting controls regardless of respiratory symptoms provides the least biased estimates of pneumonia etiology. We review 3 reasons investigators may choose to exclude controls with respiratory symptoms in light of epidemiologic principles of control selection and present data from the Pneumonia Etiology Research for Child Health (PERCH) study where relevant to assess their validity. We conclude that exclusion of controls with respiratory symptoms will result in biased estimates of etiology. Randomly selected community controls, with or without respiratory symptoms, as long as they do not meet the criteria for case-defining pneumonia, are most representative of the general population from which cases arose and the least subject to selection bias.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Infect Dis

Publication Date





S205 - S212


PERCH, control selection, pneumonia etiology, respiratory symptoms, selection bias., Child, Data Interpretation, Statistical, Epidemiologic Research Design, Female, Humans, Male, Multicenter Studies as Topic, Pneumonia, Pneumonia, Bacterial, Pneumonia, Viral, Research Design, Respiratory Tract Infections, Risk Factors, Selection Bias