Cross-reactive “common” pneumococcal antigens offer an attractive alternative, or complement, to polysaccharides and polysaccharide-protein conjugate vaccines. These common antigens should be protective against strains of a wider range of capsular types than can be achieved with conjugate vaccines. Common protein antigens would be expected to be highly immunogenic in young children and should be able to be manufactured relatively inexpensively using recombinant techniques. It is hoped that these antigens will lead to a vaccine(s) that could have application worldwide, even in the poorest developing countries where the rates of fatal pneumococcal disease in children are the highest. © 2003, Elsevier B.V.