Scientists have unveiled a world map of the most common bacterial cause of pneumonia, giving the scientific world an unprecedented view of the information needed to predict strains and produce vaccines, the study’s authors said.

The introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine has reduced childhood infections worldwide, which in turn helps to protect vulnerable older adults, especially those over 65, the study’s authors said. But pneumonia incidence remains high due to new and unknown strains of disease-causing bacteria. In fact, the global genomic survey discovered 621 strains of the common Streptococcus pneumoniae in more than fifty countries. The findings reveal how bacteria have evolved in response to worldwide vaccine use.

“Now we have global data, showing which strains are present in each country, and can use this to understand pneumococcal infection on a world-wide scale,” said Rebecca Gladstone, Ph.D., joint author on two of the study’s papers.

“Pneumonia is a huge threat to health worldwide,” concluded senior author Stephen Bentley, Ph.D. The new map “will give crucial information for future vaccine strategy worldwide, and help save lives,” he added.