Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype nomenclature

Author: Swapna Abhyankar, MD
Date written: May 2017

Streptococcus pneumoniae is an important human pathogen whose virulence is based primarily on its polysaccharide capsule, which protects it by shielding it from the immune system. Over time, study of the polysaccharide capsule has identified multiple serogroups and serotypes. Serotypes are defined based on the chemical structure and immunologic properties of the polysaccharide, and each serogroup contains one or more serotypes that elicit the same antibody response.

Over time, two parallel serotype naming systems arose, one in the U.S. and one in Denmark. Initially in LOINC, our intent was to create terms based on the U.S. serotype number, but that was not clearly stated in the Component. Over time, as the number of serotypes that have been identified increased in number and were assigned new serogroup, U.S. serotype, and Danish serotype numbers, many of our existing terms became ambiguous because the number in the Component could potentially represent any of the three. More recently, it has come to our attention that the Danish naming system is the one that has been widely adopted, including in the U.S.

Beginning with the June 2017 release, LOINC adopted the Danish numbering system in the Component for all pneumococcal terms and explicitly include the words "Danish serotype" in the Component. To that end, we deprecated any existing term that could be ambiguous as to whether the number in the Component referred to the serogroup, U.S. serotype, or Danish serotype, and mapped it to a new term for the corresponding Danish serotype (assuming that the original term was, indeed, created to represent the U.S. serotype as stated above). For existing terms in which the existing Component could only represent the U.S. serotype (i.e., there are no corresponding serogroups or Danish serotypes with the same number), we updated the Component to the corresponding Danish serotype.

In the RELATEDNAMES2 field, we have included the corresponding U.S. serotype number for each of the Danish serotypes, as well as information about whether each serotype is included in each of the 23-valent polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23), 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), or 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7), respectively. This same information is also provided in the following table, though please note that the table does not contain every identified serotype, only the ones for which LOINC codes exist.

Danish serotype number U.S. serotype number Vaccine(s) that include this strain
1 1 PCV13, PPSV23
2 2 PPSV23
3 3 PCV13, PPSV23
4 4 PCV7, PCV13, PPSV23
5 5 PCV13, PPSV23
6A 6 PCV13
6B 26 PCV7, PCV13, PPSV23
7A 7
7F 51 PCV13, PPSV23
8 8 PPSV23
9N 9 PPSV23
9V 68 PCV7, PCV13, PPSV23
10A 34 PPSV23
11A 43 PPSV23
12F 12 PPSV23
14 14 PCV7, PCV13, PPSV23
15B 54 PPSV23
16F 16
17F 17 PPSV23
18C 56 PCV7, PCV13, PPSV23
18F 18
19A 57 PCV13, PPSV23
19B 58
19F 19 PCV7, PCV13, PPSV23
20A 20
22F 22 PPV23
23A 46
23F 23 PCV7, PCV13, PPSV23
33F 70 PPSV23


Geno K A, Gilbert G L, Song J Y, Skovsted I C, Klugman K P, Jones C, Konradsen H B, Nahm M H. Pneumococcal capsules and their types: past, present, and future. Clinical Microbiology Reviews 2015; 28(3):871-899. PubMed: 26085553.

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