The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, is the first to show that transmission can occur via contact between the nose and hands.
Experts recommend parents keep toys and kids' hands clean to help protect their children and to avoid spreading the bacteria on to others, including elderly relatives who may be susceptible to infection.
Lead researcher Dr Victoria Connor, a clinical research fellow at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Royal Liverpool Hospital, said: "Pneumococcal infection is a major cause of death around the world, and it is estimated that it is responsible for 1.3 million deaths in children under five years annually.
"The elderly and people with other causes of impaired immunity, such as chronic illness, are also at an increased risk of pneumococcal infections.
"Our current understanding of the transmission of pneumococcus is poor, so we wanted to look at how it may be spread in the community.
"Having a clearer understanding of how the bacteria is spread will allow for better advice on how transmission can be reduced, so that there is greater prevention of pneumococcal infections."
The researchers found that the bacteria could transfer from hands to the nose whether people picked, poked or just rubbed their nose with the back of their hand.
Dr Connor said: "It might not be realistic to get children to stop picking, poking and rubbing their noses, and presence of the bacteria can sometimes boost the immune system of children and can reduce their chances of carrying it again later in life, so it is unclear if completely reducing the spread of pneumococcus in children is the best thing.
"But for parents, as this research shows that hands are likely to spread pneumococcus, this may be important when children are in contact with elderly relatives or relatives with reduced immune systems.
"In these situations, ensuring good hand hygiene and cleaning of toys or surfaces would likely reduce transmission, and reduce the risk of developing pneumococcal infection such as pneumonia."
Prof Tobias Welte, President of the European Respiratory Society, added: "This pilot study is the first to confirm that pneumococcus bacteria can be spread through direct contact, rather than just through breathing in airborne bacteria."
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