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Representative strains of serogroup A Neisseria meningitidis were chosen from all major meningitis epidemics worldwide since 1960 and subjected to analysis for the electrophoretic variation of 15 cytoplasmic allozymes and four outer membrane proteins. The 290 strains defined 84 unique electrophoretic types which were classified in nine subgroups. Tests with monoclonal antibodies specific for conserved pilin epitopes showed that the class I, IIa, and IIb epitopes were uniform within the subgroups. Similarly, the subgroups were uniform for expression of different variable regions of class 1 outer membrane protein, with a few minor exceptions. Many of the bacteria tested were isolated in the People's Republic of China, and the epidemiology of Chinese epidemics of meningococcal meningitis is described. The analysis approaches a global description of epidemic meningitis caused by serogroup A meningococci in the past 30 years.