There is an increased susceptibility and mortality in the elderly due to pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. We aimed to assess the inflammatory cell composition with respect to age in pneumococcal pneumonia patients. Neutrophilic granulocytes and various lymphocyte and macrophage subpopulations were immunohistochemically quantified on lung tissue specimens of young (n = 5; mean age 8.4 years), middle-aged (n = 8; mean age 55.9 years) and elderly (n = 9; mean age 86.6 years) pneumonia patients with microbiologically proven S. pneumoniae pneumonia. We discovered a higher percentage of neutrophilic granulocytes in elderly as opposed to young patients (95 vs. 75%, p = 0.012). Conversely, young patients versus elderly patients had more alveolar macrophages (CD11c+: 20 vs. 9%, p = 0.029) and M1 macrophages (CD14+: 30 vs. 10%, p = 0.012 and HLA-DR+: 52 vs. 11%, p = 0.019). There was no significant difference concerning M2 macrophages and lymphocytes. Comparison of young patients with middle-aged patients showed similar significant results for alveolar macrophages (p = 0.019) and subsignificant results for M1 macrophages and neutrophilic granulocytes (p < 0.08). This is the first study characterizing the inflammatory infiltrate of pneumococcal pneumonia in situ. Our observations improve the understanding of the innate immune mechanisms of pneumococcal lung infection and point at the potential of therapies for restoring macrophage function and decreasing neutrophilic influx in order to help prevent or cure pneumonia.

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