- SUMMARY Vulnerability to Streptococcus pneumoniae is most pronounced in children. The microbial virulence factors and the features of the host immune response contributing to this phenomenon are not completely understood. In the current study, the humoral immune response to separated Strep. pneumoniae surface proteins and the ability to interfere with Strep. pneumoniae adhesion to cultured epithelial cells were analysed in adults and in children. Sera collected from healthy adults recognized Strep. pneumoniae separated lectin and nonlectin surface proteins in Western blot analysis and inhibited on average 80% of Strep. pneumoniae adhesion to epithelial cells in a concentration-dependent manner. However, sera longitudinally collected from healthy children attending day care centres from 18 months of age and over the course of the following 2 years revealed: (a) development of antibodies to previously unrecognized Strep. pneumoniae surface proteins with age; (b) a quantitative increase in antibody responses, measured by densitometry, towards separated Strep. pneumoniae surface proteins with age; and (c) inhibition of Strep. pneumoniae adhesion to epithelial cells, which was 50% on average at 18 months of age, increased significantly to an average level of 80% inhibition at 42 months of age equalling adult sera inhibitory values. The results obtained in the current study, from the longitudinally collected sera from healthy children with documented repeated Strep. pneumoniae colonization, show that repeated exposures are insufficient to elicit an immune response to Strep. pneumoniae proteins at 18 months of age. This inability to recognize Strep. pneumoniae surface proteins may stem from the inefficiency of T-cell-dependent B-cell responses at this age and/or from the low immunogenicity of the proteins.