Document Type



Pathology (East Africa)


Background; Klebsiella pneumoniae is an important cause of nosocomial and community-acquired pneumonia and sepsis in children, and antibiotic-resistant K pneumoniae is a growing public health threat. We aimed to characterize child mortality associated with this pathogen in seven high-mortality settings.

Methods; We analysed Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance (CHAMPS) data on the causes of deaths in children younger than 5 years and stillbirths in sites located in seven countries across sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and South Africa) and south Asia (Bangladesh) from Dec 9, 2016, to Dec 31, 2021. CHAMPS sites conduct active surveillance for deaths in catchment populations and following reporting of an eligible death or stillbirth seek consent for minimally invasive tissue sampling followed by extensive aetiological testing (microbiological, molecular, and pathological); cases are reviewed by expert panels to assign immediate, intermediate, and underlying causes of death. We reported on susceptibility to antibiotics for which at least 30 isolates had been tested, and excluded data on antibiotics for which susceptibility testing is not recommended for Klebsiella spp due to lack of clinical activity (eg, penicillin and ampicillin).

Findings; Among 2352 child deaths with cause of death assigned, 497 (21%, 95% CI 20–23) had K pneumoniae in the causal chain of death; 100 (20%, 17–24) had K pneumoniae as the underlying cause. The frequency of K pneumoniae in the causal chain was highest in children aged 1–11 months (30%, 95% CI 26–34; 144 of 485 deaths) and 12–23 months (28%, 22–34; 63 of 225 deaths); frequency by site ranged from 6% (95% CI 3–11; 11 of 184 deaths) in Bangladesh to 52% (44–61; 71 of 136 deaths) in Ethiopia. K pneumoniae was in the causal chain for 450 (22%, 95% CI 20–24) of 2023 deaths that occurred in health facilities and 47 (14%, 11–19) of 329 deaths in the community. The most common clinical syndromes among deaths with K pneumoniae in the causal chain were sepsis (44%, 95% CI 40–49; 221 of 2352 deaths), sepsis in conjunction with pneumonia (19%, 16–23; 94 of 2352 deaths), and pneumonia (16%, 13–20; 80 of 2352 deaths). Among K pneumoniae isolates tested, 121 (84%) of 144 were resistant to ceftriaxone and 80 (75%) of 106 to gentamicin.

Interpretation; K pneumoniae substantially contributed to deaths in the first 2 years of life across multiple high-mortality settings, and resistance to antibiotics used for sepsis treatment was common. Improved strategies are needed to rapidly identify and appropriately treat children who might be infected with this pathogen. These data suggest a potential impact of developing and using effective K pneumoniae vaccines in reducing neonatal, infant, and child deaths globally.

Publication (Name of Journal)

The Lancet Microbe


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.