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Pneumonia kills more children each year worldwide than any other disease. Nonetheless, accurately determining the causes of childhood pneumonia has remained elusive. Over the past century, the focus of pneumonia etiology research has shifted from studies of lung aspirates and postmortem specimens intent on identifying pneumococcal disease to studies of multiple specimen types distant from the lung that are tested for multiple pathogens. Some major challenges facing modern pneumonia etiology studies include the use of nonspecific and variable case definitions, poor access to pathologic lung tissue and to specimens from fatal cases, poor diagnostic accuracy of assays (especially when testing nonpulmonary specimens), and the interpretation of results when multiple pathogens are detected in a given individual. The future of childhood pneumonia etiology research will likely require integrating data from complementary approaches, including applications of advanced molecular diagnostics and vaccine probe studies, as well as a renewed emphasis on lung aspirates from radiologically confirmed pneumonia and postmortem examinations.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Infect Dis

Publication Date





S188 - S196


acute lower respiratory tract infections., causation, etiology, pneumonia, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Biomedical Research, Child, Child, Preschool, Female, Humans, Infant, Lung, Male, Molecular Diagnostic Techniques, Pneumonia, Pneumonia, Bacterial, Pneumonia, Pneumococcal, Pneumonia, Viral, Respiratory Tract Infections, Specimen Handling, Vaccines