Spheroidal bacterium (Streptococcus pneumoniae) that causes human diseases including pneumonia, sinusitis, ear infection, and meningitis. Usually occurring in the upper respiratory tract, this gram-positive (see gram stain) coccus is often found in a chain configuration and surrounded by a polysaccharide capsule. Pneumococci are separated into types depending on the specific capsular polysaccharide formed. Their disease-causing ability resides in the capsule, which delays or prevents their destruction by cells in the bloodstream that normally engulf foreign material.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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