Pneumococcal disease to be given “equal prominence and standing” to HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, UK MPs say.

A report was launched at the House of Lords yesterday by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pneumococcal Disease Prevention in the Developing World, claiming that up to one million children under the age of five die each year from the disease – more than AIDS, malaria and TB combined.

“We have a responsibility to help reduce the global health problem of pneumococcal disease, which is under-recognised and until recently, has had few dedicated efforts made to tackle it,” said Dr Des Turner, MP and Chair of the group.

The report was developed in response to the urgent need to improve child survival and tackle the devastating impact of pneumococcal disease in the developing world, Turner said.

“As we’ve highlighted, governments and international organisations have a crucial role to play in preventing pneumococcal disease I the developing world, and need to maintain and grow commitment to mobilise the resources needed to fight the disease.”

The report also covered the disease burden, financing and also the future of the fight against the disease, which is an infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, which can invade the lungs, causing pneumonia, the bloodstream, causing bacteremia, the tissues and fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord, causing meningitis, and the ear, causing ear infections.

Wyeth’s Prevenar vaccine against the disease was introduced in the UK in September 2006 and since then statistics show a 59% reduction in cases of invasive pneumococcal disease among children under two in England and Wales.

However, developing countries account for 90% of pneumococcal deaths and do not have access to the vaccine.

The MPs urged donor and developing countries to continue their commitment to fight the disease through vaccination, strengthening healthcare systems, sustained political will, funding for research and international co-ordination efforts.

Dr Orin Levine, Executive Director of the GAVI Alliance’s Pneumococcal vaccines Accelerated Development and Introduction Plan commended the AAPG’s recommendation to elevate the importance of the disease alongside others.

A novel financing mechanism, Advance Market Commitment, has been initiated to accelerate the introduction of the vaccine into the developing world. The AMC for pneumococcal disease is expected to save the lives of more than seven million children by 2030.

Evidence for the report was gathered globally from individuals, governments, multilaterals, NGOs, funding organizations and the pharmaceutical industry.