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1.  The Changing Epidemiology of Meningococcal Disease in Quebec, Canada, 1991–2011: Potential Implications of Emergence of New Strains 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50659.
Background
In order to inform meningococcal disease prevention strategies, we analysed the epidemiology of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in the province of Quebec, Canada, 10 years before and 10 years after the introduction of serogroup C conjugate vaccination.
Methodology
IMD cases reported to the provincial notifiable disease registry in 1991–2011 and isolates submitted for laboratory surveillance in 1997–2011 were analysed. Serogrouping, PCR testing and assignment of isolates to sequence types (ST) by using multilocus sequence typing (MLST) were performed.
Results
Yearly overall IMD incidence rates ranged from 2.2–2.3/100,000 in 1991–1992 to 0.49/100,000 in 1999–2000, increasing to 1.04/100,000 in 2011. Among the 945 IMD cases identified by laboratory surveillance in 1997–2011, 68%, 20%, 8%, and 3% were due to serogroups B, C, Y, and W135, respectively. Serogroup C IMD almost disappeared following the implementation of universal childhood immunization with monovalent C conjugate vaccines in 2002. Serogroup B has been responsible for 88% of all IMD cases and 61% of all IMD deaths over the last 3 years. The number and proportion of ST-269 clonal complex has been steadily increasing among the identified clonal complexes of serogroup B IMD since its first identification in 2003, representing 65% of serogroup B IMD in 2011. This clonal complex was first introduced in adolescent and young adults, then spread to other age groups.
Conclusion
Important changes in the epidemiology of IMD have been observed in Quebec during the last two decades. Serogroup C has been virtually eliminated. In recent years, most cases have been caused by the serogroup B ST-269 clonal complex. Although overall burden of IMD is low, the use of a vaccine with potential broad-spectrum coverage could further reduce the burden of disease. Acceptability, feasibility and cost-effectiveness studies coupled with ongoing clinical and molecular surveillance are necessary in guiding public policy decisions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050659
PMCID: PMC3510192  PMID: 23209803
2.  Epidemiology of Invasive Meningococcal Disease with Decreased Susceptibility to Penicillin in Ontario, Canada, 2000 to 2006▿  
Neisseria meningitidis has been relatively slow to acquire resistance to penicillin. We previously reported an increase in the incidence of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) strains with decreased susceptibility to penicillin (DSP) in Ontario. Our objectives were to evaluate trends in IMD with DSP, to identify case-level predictors of IMD with DSP, and to evaluate the relationship among DSP, bacterial phenotype, and the likelihood of a fatal outcome. All IMD isolates received in Ontario between 2000 and 2006 were submitted to the Public Health Laboratories, Toronto, for confirmation of the species, serogroup determination, and susceptibility testing. Isolates were considered to be IMD strains with DSP if the penicillin MIC was ≥0.125 μg/ml. Temporal trends were evaluated using multivariable Poisson regression models. Correlates of diminished susceptibility and fatal outcome were evaluated with multivariable logistic regression models. The overall rate of IMD caused by strains with DSP in Ontario was approximately 1.20 cases per million population annually (95% confidence interval [95% CI], 0.99 to 1.46). Seventy-nine strains (21.7%) were IMD strains with DSP. There was no year-to-year trend in the incidence of IMD with DSP. IMD with DSP was strongly associated with strains of serogroups Y (odds ratio [OR], 6.3; 95% CI, 3.6 to 11.1) and W-135 (OR, 8.2; 95% CI, 4.0 to 16.7). Infection with serogroup B or C strains was associated with a marked increase in the risk of mortality (OR, 3.07; 95% CI, 1.39 to 6.75); however, no association between IMD with DSP and mortality was observed. In contrast to trends of the 1990s, the incidence of IMD with DSP was stable in Ontario between 2000 and 2006. In Ontario, the serogroup rather than the penicillin MIC is the microbiological parameter most predictive of mortality.
doi:10.1128/AAC.01077-09
PMCID: PMC2826021  PMID: 20086160
3.  Epidemiology of vaccine-preventable invasive diseases in Catalonia in the era of conjugate vaccines 
We investigated the incidence and distribution of cases of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD), invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) and invasive Hemophilus influenzae disease (IHiD) notified by hospital laboratories to the Microbiological Reporting System of Catalonia between 2005 and 2009. Incidence rates were compared using the rate ratio (RR) and 95% CI were calculated. A value of p < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. Of the 6,661 cases, 6,012 were IPD, 436 IMD and 213 IHiD. The global annual incidence per 105 inhabitants was 16.62 (95% CI 16.20–17.04) for IPD, 1.21 (95% CI 1.09–1.32) for IMD and 0.59 (95% CI 0.51–0.67) for IHiD. IPD increased in 2009 compared with 2005 (RR:1.55, 95%CI: 1.43–1.70) and IMD and IHiD remained stable. Pneumonia was the most-frequent clinical manifestation of IPD (75.6%) and IHiD (44.1%) and meningoencephalitis with or without sepsis for IMD (70.6%). The male:female ratio was 1.37 for IPD, 1.0 for IMD and 1.15 for IHiD. The age groups with the highest incidence were the ≤ 2 y and 2–4 y groups for IPD (66.40 and 50.66/100,000 persons-year) and IMD (14.88 and 7.26/100,000 persons-year) and the ≤ 2 y and ≥ 65 y groups for IHiD (1.88 and 1.89/100,000 persons-year). The most-frequent serotypes were serotype 1 (19.0%) in IPD and untypeable serotypes (60.8%) in IHiD. Serogroup B (78.3%) was the most frequent in IMD. S. pneumoniae is the most-frequent agent causing invasive disease in Catalonia. The main clinical manifestations were pneumonia in IPD and IHiD and meningitis in IMD. The main causative agent of meningitis was N. meningitidis in people aged < 20 y and S. pneumoniae in people aged ≥ 20 y. Vaccination with conjugate vaccines may reduce the risk of infectious disease in our setting.
doi:10.4161/hv.23266
PMCID: PMC3891729  PMID: 23303166
invasive pneumococcal disease; invasive meningococcal disease; invasive Haemophilus influenzae disease; serotypes; serogroups; Streptococcus pneumoniae; Neisseria meningitidis; Haemophilus influenzae; conjugate vaccines
4.  Serogroup C meningococci in Italy in the era of conjugate menC vaccination 
Background
To assess changes in the pattern of Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD) in Italy after the introduction of conjugate menC vaccine in the National Vaccine Plan 2005–2007 and to provide information for developing timely and appropriate public health interventions, analyses of microbiological features of isolates and clinical characteristics of patients have been carried out. In Italy, the number of serogroup C meningococci fell progressively following the introduction of the MenC conjugate vaccine, recommended by the Italian Ministry of Health but implemented according to different regional strategies.
Methods
IMD cases from January 2005 through July 2008 reported to the National Meningococcal Surveillance System were considered for this study. Serogrouping and sero/subtyping were performed on 179 serogroup C strains received at the National Reference Laboratory of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità. Antibiotic susceptibility testing was possible for 157 isolates. MLST (Multilocus sequence typing), porA VRs (Variable Region) typing, PFGE (Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis), VNTR (Variable Number Tandem Repeats) analyses were performed on all C:2a and C:2b meningococci (n = 147), following standard procedures.
Results
In 2005 and 2008, IMD showed an incidence of 0.5 and 0.3 per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively. While the incidence due to serogroup B remained stable, IMD incidence due to serogroup C has decreased since 2006. In particular, the decrease was significant among infants. C:2a and C:2b were the main serotypes, all C:2a strains belonged to ST-11 clonal complex and all C:2b to ST-8/A4. Clinical manifestations and outcome of infections underlined more severe disease caused by C:2a isolates. Two clusters due to C:2a/ST-11 meningococci were reported in the North of Italy in December 2007 and July 2008, respectively, with a high rate of septicaemia and fatal outcome.
Conclusion
Public health surveillance of serogroup C invasive meningococcal disease and microbiological/molecular characterization of the isolates requires particular attention, since the hyper-invasive ST-11 predominantly affected adolescents and young adults for whom meningococcal vaccination was not recommended in the 2005–2007 National Vaccine Plan.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-135
PMCID: PMC2739211  PMID: 19698137
5.  Meningococcal disease: changes in epidemiology and prevention 
Clinical Epidemiology  2012;4:237-245.
The human bacterial pathogen Neisseria meningitidis remains a serious worldwide health threat, but progress is being made toward the control of meningococcal infections. This review summarizes current knowledge of the global epidemiology and the pathophysiology of meningococcal disease, as well as recent advances in prevention by new vaccines. Meningococcal disease patterns and incidence can vary dramatically, both geographically and over time in populations, influenced by differences in invasive meningococcal capsular serogroups and specific genotypes designated as ST clonal complexes. Serogroup A (ST-5, ST-7), B (ST-41/44, ST-32, ST-18, ST-269, ST-8, ST-35), C (ST-11), Y (ST-23, ST-167), W-135 (ST-11) and X (ST-181) meningococci currently cause almost all invasive disease. Serogroups B, C, and Y are responsible for the majority of cases in Europe, the Americas, and Oceania; serogroup A has been associated with the highest incidence (up to 1000 per 100,000 cases) and large outbreaks of meningococcal disease in sub-Saharan Africa and previously Asia; and serogroups W-135 and X have emerged to cause major disease outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa. Significant declines in meningococcal disease have occurred in the last decade in many developed countries. In part, the decline is related to the introduction of new meningococcal vaccines. Serogroup C polysaccharide-protein conjugate vaccines were introduced over a decade ago, first in the UK in a mass vaccination campaign, and are now widely used; multivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccines containing serogroups A, C, W-135, and/or Y were first used for adolescents in the US in 2005 and have now expanded indications for infants and young children, and a new serogroup A conjugate vaccine has recently been introduced in sub-Saharan Africa. The effectiveness of these conjugate vaccines has been enhanced by the prevention of person-to-person transmission and herd immunity. In addition, progress has been made in serogroup B-specific vaccines based on conserved proteins and outer membrane vesicles. However, continued global surveillance is essential in understanding and predicting the dynamic changes in the epidemiology and biological basis of meningococcal disease and to influence the recommendations for current and future vaccines or other prevention strategies.
doi:10.2147/CLEP.S28410
PMCID: PMC3470458  PMID: 23071402
Neisseria meningitidis; meningococcal disease; conjugate vaccines; meningococcal vaccines
6.  A Decade of Invasive Meningococcal Disease Surveillance in Poland 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71943.
Background
Neisseria meningitidis is a leading etiologic agent of severe invasive disease. The objective of the study was to characterise invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) epidemiology in Poland during the last decade, based on laboratory confirmed cases.
Methods
The study encompassed all invasive meningococci collected between 2002 and 2011 in the National Reference Centre for Bacterial Meningitis. The isolates were re-identified and characterised by susceptibility testing, MLST analysis, porA and fetA sequencing. A PCR technique was used for meningococcal identification directly from clinical materials.
Results
In the period studied, 1936 cases of IMD were confirmed, including 75.6% identified by culture. Seven IMD outbreaks, affecting mostly adolescents, were reported; all were caused by serogroup C meningococci of ST-11. The highest incidence was observed among children under one year of age (15.71/100,000 in 2011). The general case fatality rate in the years 2010–2011 was 10.0%. Meningococci of serogroup B, C, Y and W-135 were responsible for 48.8%, 36.6%, 1.2% and 1.2% of cases, respectively. All isolates were susceptible to third generation cephalosporins, chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, and 84.2% were susceptible to penicillin. MLST analysis (2009–2011) revealed that among serogroup B isolates the most represented were clonal complexes (CC) ST-32CC, ST-18CC, ST-41/44CC, ST-213CC and ST-269CC, and among serogroup C: ST-103CC, ST-41/44CC and ST-11CC.
Conclusions
The detection of IMD in Poland has changed over time, but observed increase in the incidence of the disease was mostly attributed to changes in the surveillance system including an expanded case definition and inclusion of data from non-culture diagnostics.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071943
PMCID: PMC3748050  PMID: 23977184
7.  The changing epidemiology of meningococcal disease in North America 1945–2010 
The epidemiology of Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD) is distinct in the United States and Canada compared with other countries. This review describes the incidence, mortality and vaccination strategies relevant to IMD in these countries over the past 65 y. The incidence of IMD has remained consistently low in both countries during this period. Serogroup B and serogroup C have been the most prominent disease-causing serogroups. Notably, serogroup Y has recently become an important cause of IMD in the USA, but has not been as prominent in Canada. Periodic rises in incidence have been characterized by local outbreaks that have raised public concern, especially those caused by serogroup C in Canada, and serogroup B in the USA. Case fatality rates have remained consistent at around 10–20%, but vary by age and serogroup. Recent outbreaks have led to the introduction of vaccination programs for both outbreak control and routine immunization.
doi:10.4161/hv.22302
PMCID: PMC3667932  PMID: 23108355
Neisseria meningitidis; meningococcal disease; epidemiology; North America; Literature review
8.  Emergence of serogroup C meningococcal disease associated with a high mortality rate in Hefei, China 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:205.
Background
Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C has emerged as a cause of epidemic disease in Hefei. The establishment of serogroup C as the predominant cause of endemic disease has not been described.
Methods
We conducted national laboratory-based surveillance for invasive meningococcal disease during 2000–2010. Isolates were characterized by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and multilocus sequence typing.
Results
A total of 845 cases of invasive meningococcal disease were reported. The incidence increased from 1.25 cases per 100,000 population in 2000 to 3.14 cases per 100,000 in 2003 (p < 0.001), and peaked at 8.43 cases per 100,000 in 2005. The increase was mainly the result of an increase in the incidence of serogroup C disease. Serogroup C disease increased from 2/23 (9%) meningococcal cases and 0.11 cases per 100,000 in 2000 to 33/58 (57%) cases and 1.76 cases per 100,000 in 2003 (p < 0.01). Patients infected with serogroup C had serious complications more frequently than those infected with other serogroups. Specifically, 161/493 (32.7%) cases infected with serogroup C had at least one complication. The case-fatality rate of serogroup C meningitis was 11.4%, significantly higher than for serogroup A meningitis (5.3%, p = 0.021). Among patients with meningococcal disease, factors associated with death in univariate analysis were age of 15–24 years, infection with serogroup C, and meningococcemia.
Conclusions
The incidence of meningococcal disease has substantially increased and serogroup C has become endemic in Hefei. The serogroup C strain has caused more severe disease than the previously predominant serogroup A strain.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-205
PMCID: PMC3459715  PMID: 22943188
Neisseria meningitidis; Serogroup C strain; Incidence
9.  Meningococcal Disease in South Africa, 1999–2002 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2007;13(2):273-281.
Serogroups and strains differ by location, although hypervirulent strains were identified throughout the country.
We describe the epidemiology of invasive meningococcal disease in South Africa from August 1999 through July 2002, as reported to a laboratory-based surveillance system. Neisseria meningitidis isolates were further characterized. In total, 854 cases of laboratory-confirmed disease were reported, with an annual incidence rate of 0.64/100,000 population. Incidence was highest in infants <1 year of age. Serogroup B caused 41% of cases; serogroup A, 23%; serogroup Y, 21%; serogroup C, 8%; and serogroup W135, 5%. Serogroup B was the predominant serogroup in Western Cape Province, and disease rates remained stable. Serogroup A was most prevalent in Gauteng Province and increased over the 3 years. On pulsed-field gel electrophoresis analysis, serogroup A strains showed clonality, and serogroup B demonstrated considerable diversity. Selected isolates of serogroup A belonged to sequence type (ST)-1 (subgroup I/II) complex, serogroup B to ST-32/electrophoretic type (ET)-5 complex, and serogroup W135 to ST-11/ET-37 complex.
doi:10.3201/eid1302.051553
PMCID: PMC2725855  PMID: 17479891
Neisseria meningitidis; serogroup; meningococcal disease; ST-complex; hypervirulent strains; MLST; PFGE; research
10.  Epidemiology, Molecular Characterization and Antibiotic Resistance of Neisseria meningitidis from Patients ≤15 Years in Manhiça, Rural Mozambique 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e19717.
Background
The epidemiology of meningococcal disease in Mozambique and other African countries located outside the “meningitis belt” remains widely unknown. With the event of upcoming vaccines microbiological and epidemiological information is urgently needed.
Methods
Prospective surveillance for invasive bacterial infections was conducted at the Manhiça District hospital (rural Mozambique) among hospitalized children below 15 years of age. Available Neisseria meningitidis isolates were serogrouped and characterized by Multilocus Sequence Typing (MLST). Antibiotic resistance was also determined.
Results
Between 1998 and 2008, sixty-three cases of confirmed meningococcal disease (36 meningitis, 26 sepsis and 1 conjunctivitis) were identified among hospitalized children. The average incidence rate of meningococcal disease was 11.6/100,000 (8/100,000 for meningitis and 3.7/100,000 for meningococcemia, respectively). There was a significant rise on the number of meningococcal disease cases in 2005–2006 that was sustained till the end of the surveillance period. Serogroup was determined for 43 of the 63 meningococcal disease cases: 38 serogroup W-135, 3 serogroup A and 2 serogroup Y. ST-11 was the most predominant sequence type and strongly associated with serogroup W-135. Two of the three serogroup A isolates were ST-1, and both serogroup Y isolates were ST-175. N. meningitidis remained highly susceptible to all antibiotics used for treatment in the country, although the presence of isolates presenting intermediate resistance to penicillin advocates for continued surveillance.
Conclusions
Our data show a high rate of meningococcal disease in Manhiça, Mozambique, mainly caused by serogroup W-135 ST-11 strains, and advocates for the implementation of a vaccination strategy covering serogroup W-135 meningococci in the country.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019717
PMCID: PMC3112148  PMID: 21695194
11.  Effects of Community-Wide Vaccination with PCV-7 on Pneumococcal Nasopharyngeal Carriage in The Gambia: A Cluster-Randomized Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(10):e1001107.
In a cluster-randomized trial conducted in Gambian villages, Anna Roca and colleagues find that vaccination of children with pneumococcal conjugate vaccines reduced vaccine-type pneumococcal carriage even among nonvaccinated older children and adults.
Background
Introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) of limited valency is justified in Africa by the high burden of pneumococcal disease. Long-term beneficial effects of PCVs may be countered by serotype replacement. We aimed to determine the impact of PCV-7 vaccination on pneumococcal carriage in rural Gambia.
Methods and Findings
A cluster-randomized (by village) trial of the impact of PCV-7 on pneumococcal nasopharyngeal carriage was conducted in 21 Gambian villages between December 2003 to June 2008 (5,441 inhabitants in 2006). Analysis was complemented with data obtained before vaccination. Because efficacy of PCV-9 in young Gambian children had been shown, it was considered unethical not to give PCV-7 to young children in all of the study villages. PCV-7 was given to children below 30 mo of age and to those born during the trial in all study villages. Villages were randomized (older children and adults) to receive one dose of PCV-7 (11 vaccinated villages) or meningococcal serogroup C conjugate vaccine (10 control villages). Cross-sectional surveys (CSSs) to collect nasopharyngeal swabs were conducted before vaccination (2,094 samples in the baseline CSS), and 4–6, 12, and 22 mo after vaccination (1,168, 1,210, and 446 samples in CSS-1, -2, and -3, respectively).
A time trend analysis showed a marked fall in the prevalence of vaccine-type pneumococcal carriage in all age groups following vaccination (from 23.7% and 26.8% in the baseline CSS to 7.1% and 8.5% in CSS-1, in vaccinated and control villages, respectively). The prevalence of vaccine-type pneumococcal carriage was lower in vaccinated than in control villages among older children (5 y to <15 y of age) and adults (≥15 y of age) at CSS-2 (odds ratio [OR] = 0.15 [95% CI 0.04–0.57] and OR = 0.32 [95% CI 0.10–0.98], respectively) and at CSS-3 (OR = 0.37 [95% CI 0.15–0.90] for older children, and 0% versus 7.6% for adults in vaccinated and control villages, respectively). Differences in the prevalence of non-vaccine-type pneumococcal carriage between vaccinated and control villages were small.
Conclusions
Vaccination of Gambian children reduced vaccine-type pneumococcal carriage across all age groups, indicating a “herd effect” in non-vaccinated older children and adults. No significant serotype replacement was detected.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The prevention of pneumococcal disease, especially in children in developing countries, is a major international public health priority. Despite all the international attention on the UN's Millennium Development Goal 4—to reduce deaths in children under five years by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015—pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis together compose more than 25% of the 10 million deaths occurring in children less than five years of age. Streptococcus pneumoniae is a leading bacterial cause of these diseases, and the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 800,000 children die each year of invasive pneumococcal disease.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines are currently available and protect against the serotypes that most commonly cause invasive pneumococcal disease in young children in North America and Europe. Such vaccines have been highly successful in reducing the incidence of invasive pneumococcal disease in both vaccinated children and in the non-vaccinated older population by reducing nasopharyngeal carriage (presence of pneumococcal bacteria in the back of the nose) in vaccinated infants, resulting in decreased transmission to contacts—the so-called herd effect. However, few countries with the highest burden of invasive pneumococcal disease, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, have introduced the vaccine into their national immunization programs.
Why Was This Study Done?
The features of pneumococcal nasopharyngeal carriage and invasive pneumococcal disease in sub-Saharan Africa are different than in other regions. Therefore, careful evaluation of the immune effects of vaccination requires long-term, longitudinal studies. As an alternative to such long-term observational studies, and to anticipate the potential long-term effects of the introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccination in sub-Saharan Africa, the researchers conducted a cluster-randomized (by village) trial in The Gambia in which the whole populations of some villages were immunized with the vaccine PCV-7, and other villages received a control.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
With full consent from communities, the researchers randomized 21 similar villages in a rural region of western Gambia to receive pneumococcal conjugate vaccine or a control—meningococcal serogroup C conjugated vaccine, which is unlikely to affect pneumococcal carriage rates. For ethical reasons, the researchers only randomized residents aged over 30 months—all young infants received PCV-7, as a similar vaccine had already been shown to be effective in young infants. Before immunization began, the researchers took nasopharyngeal swabs from a random selection of village residents to determine the baseline pneumococcal carriage rates of both the serotypes of pneumococci covered by the vaccine (vaccine types, VTs) and the serotypes of pneumococci not covered in the vaccine (non-vaccine types, NVTs). The researchers then took nasopharyngeal swabs from a random sample of 1,200 of village residents in both groups of villages in cross-sectional surveys at 4–6, 12, and 22 months after vaccination. Villagers and laboratory staff were unaware of which vaccine was which (that is, they were blinded).
Before immunization, the overall prevalence of pneumococcal carriage in both groups was high, at 71.1%, and decreased with age. After vaccination, the overall prevalence of pneumococcal carriage in all three surveys was similar between vaccinated and control villages, showing a marked fall. However, the prevalence of carriage of VT pneumococci was significantly lower in vaccinated than in control villages in all surveys for all age groups. The prevalence of carriage of NVT pneumococci was similar in vaccinated and in control villages, except for a slightly higher prevalence of NVT pneumococci among vaccinated communities in adults at 4–6 months after vaccination. The researchers also found that the overall prevalence of pneumococcal carriage fell markedly after vaccination and reached minimum levels at 12 months in both study arms and in all age groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that vaccination of young Gambian children reduced carriage of VT pneumococci in vaccinated children but also in vaccinated and non-vaccinated older children and adults, revealing a potential herd effect from vaccination of young children. Furthermore, the immunological pressure induced by vaccinating whole communities did not lead to a community-wide increase in carriage of NVT pneumococci during a two-year period after vaccination. The researchers plan to conduct more long-term follow-up studies to determine nasopharyngeal carriage in these communities.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001107.
The World Health Organization has information about pneumococcus
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about pneumococcal conjugate vaccination
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001107
PMCID: PMC3196470  PMID: 22028630
12.  The elusive meningococcal meningitis serogroup: a systematic review of serogroup B epidemiology 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:175.
Background
Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), is a widely distributed, complex human disease affecting all age categories. The causative agent, Neisseria meningitidis, is spread through aerosol respiratory droplets. 13 different serogroups have been identified, each with varying epidemiological features including prevalence, virulence, immunogenicity, geographical and temporal distribution. Although preventative measures are available for several of the serogroups, meningococcal disease caused by serogroup B is of particular interest due to the challenge it presents concerning vaccine development.
Methods
A systematic review of peer reviewed studies and reports, the collection of data from national and international health resources, along with the analysis of the Multi Locus Sequence Typing database was carried out aimed at collecting information concerning serogroup B IMD and the epidemiology attached to it.
Results
A continuous output of related and novel STs occurring worldwide in terms of the hypervirulent clonal complexes was observed both in published studies and the MLST database in this case using the eburst software, which highlights the genetically diverse nature of serogroup B strains.
Conclusions
With the recent dominance of serogroup B IMD seen in many countries, along with the presence of antibiotic resistance, vaccine development needs to target areas of the bacterium which tackle this widespread and heterogeneous aspect of meningococcal meningitis disease.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-175
PMCID: PMC2894839  PMID: 20565757
13.  Respiratory Virus Infection and Risk of Invasive Meningococcal Disease in Central Ontario, Canada 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e15493.
Background
In temperate climates, invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) incidence tends to coincide with or closely follow peak incidence of influenza virus infection; at a seasonal level, increased influenza activity frequently correlates with increased seasonal risk of IMD.
Methods
We evaluated 240 cases of IMD reported in central Ontario, Canada, from 2000 to 2006. Associations between environmental and virological (influenza A, influenza B and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)) exposures and IMD incidence were evaluated using negative binomial regression models controlling for seasonal oscillation. Acute effects of weekly respiratory virus activity on IMD risk were evaluated using a matched-period case-crossover design with random directionality of control selection. Effects were estimated using conditional logistic regression.
Results
Multivariable negative binomial regression identified elevated IMD risk with increasing influenza A activity (per 100 case increase, incidence rate ratio = 1.18, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.06, 1.31). In case-crossover models, increasing weekly influenza A activity was associated with an acute increase in the risk of IMD (per 100 case increase, odds ratio (OR)  = 2.03, 95% CI: 1.28 to 3.23). Increasing weekly RSV activity was associated with increased risk of IMD after adjusting for RSV activity in the previous 3 weeks (per 100 case increase, OR = 4.31, 95% CI: 1.14, 16.32). No change in disease risk was seen with increasing influenza B activity.
Conclusions
We have identified an acute effect of influenza A and RSV activity on IMD risk. If confirmed, these finding suggest that influenza vaccination may have the indirect benefit of reducing IMD risk.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015493
PMCID: PMC2984510  PMID: 21103353
14.  Global practices of meningococcal vaccine use and impact on invasive disease 
Pathogens and Global Health  2014;108(1):11-20.
A number of countries now include meningococcal vaccines in their routine immunization programs. This review focuses on different approaches to including meningococcal vaccines in country programs across the world and their effect on the burden of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) as reflected by pre and post-vaccine incidence rates in the last 20 years. Mass campaigns using conjugated meningococcal vaccines have lead to control of serogroup C meningococcal disease in the UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, and Iceland. Serogroup B disease, predominant in New Zealand, has been dramatically decreased, partly due to the introduction of an outer membrane vesicle (OMV) vaccine. Polysaccharide vaccines were used in high risk people in Saudi Arabia and Syria and in routine immunization in China and Egypt. The highest incidence region of the meningitis belt initiated vaccination with the serogroup A conjugate vaccine in 2010 and catch-up vaccination is ongoing. Overall results of this vaccine introduction are encouraging especially in countries with a moderate to high level of endemic disease. Continued surveillance is required to monitor effectiveness in countries that recently implemented these programs.
doi:10.1179/2047773214Y.0000000126
PMCID: PMC4083163  PMID: 24548156
Invasive meningococcal disease; Epidemiology; Vaccines; Immunization schedule; Meningococcemia; Serogroup; Global; Immunity; Meningococcus; Meningitis
15.  An outbreak of serogroup C (ST-11) meningococcal disease in Tijuana, Mexico 
Background
Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) has been reported to be endemic in children from Tijuana, Mexico and the risk of an outbreak was always a threat.
Objectives
To describe all clinical, epidemiological and microbiological features of a meningococcal outbreak that occurred in Tijuana, Mexico.
Methods
All cases with IMD were admitted at different emergency departments within the city and diagnosed by culture and agglutination tests. Further restriction fragment length polymorphism pulse field gel electrophoresis (RFLP–PFGE) and multi locus sequence typing (MLST) were performed. All clinical and epidemiological characteristics and interventions were evaluated, as well as risk factors associated with mortality.
Results
From 30 January 2013 to 30 March 2013 there were 19 cases of IMD all caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C. The median age was 16 years (2–47), with higher frequency among individuals at least 13 years old (73.7%). At admission, meningitis was the main clinical presentation (94.7%), followed by purpura (78.9%), septic shock (42.1%) and disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC, 36.8%). Overall mortality was seven (36.8%). Variables associated with higher mortality were, at admission, presence of septic shock, DIC and thrombocytopenia less than 70,000. All 19 cases had no identifiable site or cluster as the source of the outbreak. RFLP-PFGE showed a discriminatory power for only one profile on all N. meningitidis strains analyzed and a clone ST-11 was identified in all strains. Public health interventions were continuous case reporting of all suspected cases of IMD, an increase in active surveillance in all hospitals, training of medical and laboratory personnel, massive and rapid chemoprophylaxis to all close contacts as indicated, and promotion of good health habits.
Conclusions
An outbreak with high mortality of IMD occurred in Tijuana, Mexico. This event and evidence of endemicity should encourage health authorities to evaluate meningococcal vaccination in the region.
doi:10.1177/2051013614526592
PMCID: PMC3991157  PMID: 24790731
meningococcal disease; outbreak; neisseria meningitidis; neisseria meningitidis serogroup C; meningococcal clonal complex ST-11
16.  The Effect of Universal Influenza Immunization on Mortality and Health Care Use 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(10):e211.
Background
In 2000, Ontario, Canada, initiated a universal influenza immunization program (UIIP) to provide free influenza vaccines for the entire population aged 6 mo or older. Influenza immunization increased more rapidly in younger age groups in Ontario compared to other Canadian provinces, which all maintained targeted immunization programs. We evaluated the effect of Ontario's UIIP on influenza-associated mortality, hospitalizations, emergency department (ED) use, and visits to doctors' offices.
Methods and Findings
Mortality and hospitalization data from 1997 to 2004 for all ten Canadian provinces were obtained from national datasets. Physician billing claims for visits to EDs and doctors' offices were obtained from provincial administrative datasets for four provinces with comprehensive data. Since outcomes coded as influenza are known to underestimate the true burden of influenza, we studied more broadly defined conditions. Hospitalizations, ED use, doctors' office visits for pneumonia and influenza, and all-cause mortality from 1997 to 2004 were modelled using Poisson regression, controlling for age, sex, province, influenza surveillance data, and temporal trends, and used to estimate the expected baseline outcome rates in the absence of influenza activity. The primary outcome was then defined as influenza-associated events, or the difference between the observed events and the expected baseline events. Changes in influenza-associated outcome rates before and after UIIP introduction in Ontario were compared to the corresponding changes in other provinces. After UIIP introduction, influenza-associated mortality decreased more in Ontario (relative rate [RR] = 0.26) than in other provinces (RR = 0.43) (ratio of RRs = 0.61, p = 0.002). Similar differences between Ontario and other provinces were observed for influenza-associated hospitalizations (RR = 0.25 versus 0.44, ratio of RRs = 0.58, p < 0.001), ED use (RR = 0.31 versus 0.69, ratio of RRs = 0.45, p < 0.001), and doctors' office visits (RR = 0.21 versus 0.52, ratio of RRs = 0.41, p < 0.001). Sensitivity analyses were carried out to assess consistency, specificity, and the presence of a dose-response relationship. Limitations of this study include the ecological study design, the nonspecific outcomes, difficulty in modeling baseline events, data quality and availability, and the inability to control for potentially important confounders.
Conclusions
Compared to targeted programs in other provinces, introduction of universal vaccination in Ontario in 2000 was associated with relative reductions in influenza-associated mortality and health care use. The results of this large-scale natural experiment suggest that universal vaccination may be an effective public health measure for reducing the annual burden of influenza.
Comparing influenza-related mortality and health care use between Ontario and other Canadian provinces, Jeffrey Kwong and colleagues find evidence that Ontario's universal vaccination program has reduced the burden of influenza.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Seasonal outbreaks (epidemics) of influenza—a viral disease of the nose, throat, and airways—affect millions of people and kill about 500,000 individuals every year. These epidemics occur because of “antigenic drift”: small but frequent changes in the viral proteins to which the human immune system responds mean that an immune response produced one year by exposure to an influenza virus provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Immunization can boost this natural immunity and reduce a person's chances of catching influenza. That is, an injection of killed influenza viruses can be used to prime the immune system so that it responds quickly and efficiently when exposed to live virus. However, because of antigenic drift, for influenza immunization to be effective, it has to be repeated annually with a vaccine that contains the major circulating strains of the influenza virus.
Why Was This Study Done?
Public-health organizations recommend targeted vaccination programs, so that elderly people, infants, and chronically ill individuals—the people most likely to die from pneumonia and other complications of influenza—receive annual influenza vaccination. Some experts argue, however, that universal vaccination might provide populations with better protection from influenza, both directly by increasing the number of vaccinated people and indirectly through “herd immunity,” which occurs when a high proportion of the population is immune to an infectious disease, so that even unvaccinated people are unlikely to become infected (because infected people rarely come into contact with susceptible people). In this study, the researchers compare the effects of the world's first free universal influenza immunization program (UIIP), which started in 2000 in the Canadian province of Ontario, on influenza-associated deaths and health care use with the effects of targeted vaccine programs on the same outcomes elsewhere in Canada.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using national records, the researchers collected data on influenza vaccination, on all deaths, and on hospitalizations for pneumonia and influenza in all Canadian provinces between 1997 and 2004. They also collected data on emergency department and doctors' office visits for pneumonia and influenza for Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and Manitoba. They then used a mathematical model to estimate the baseline rates for these outcomes in the absence of influenza activity, and from these calculated weekly rates for deaths and health care use specifically resulting from influenza. In 1996–1997, 18% of the population was vaccinated against influenza in Ontario whereas in the other provinces combined the vaccination rate was 13%. On average, since 2000—the year in which UIIP was introduced in Ontario—vaccination rates have risen to 38% and 24% in Ontario and the other provinces, respectively. Since the introduction of UIIP, the researchers report, influenza-associated deaths have decreased by 74% in Ontario but by only 57% in the other provinces combined. Influenza-associated use of health care facilities has also decreased more in Ontario than in the other provinces over the same period.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings are limited by some aspects of the study design. For example, they depend on the accuracy of the assumptions made when calculating events due specifically to influenza, and on the availability and accuracy of vaccination and clinical outcome data. In addition, it is possible that influenza-associated deaths and health care use may have decreased more in Ontario than in the other Canadian provinces because of some unrecognized health care changes specific to Ontario but unrelated to the introduction of universal influenza vaccination. Nevertheless, these findings indicate that, compared to the targeted vaccination programs in the other Canadian provinces, the Ontarian UIIP is associated with reductions in influenza-associated deaths and health care use, particularly in people younger than 65 years old. This effect is seen at a level of vaccination unlikely to produce herd immunity so might be more marked if the uptake of vaccination could be further increased. Thus, although it is possible that Canada is a special case, these findings suggest that universal influenza vaccination might be an effective way to reduce the global burden of influenza.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050211.
Read the related PLoSMedicine Perspective by Cécile Viboud and Mark Miller
A related PLoSMedicine Research Article by Carline van den Dool and colleagues is also available
The Ontario Ministry of Health provides information on its universal influenza immunization program (in English and French)
The World Health Organization provides information on influenza and on influenza vaccines (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information for patients and professionals on all aspects of influenza (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to other information about influenza (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service provides information about the science of immunization, including a simple explanatory animation of immunity
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050211
PMCID: PMC2573914  PMID: 18959473
17.  Global epidemiology of invasive meningococcal disease 
Neisseria meningitidis is one of the leading causes of bacterial meningitis globally and can also cause sepsis, pneumonia, and other manifestations. In countries with high endemic rates, the disease burden places an immense strain on the public health system. The worldwide epidemiology of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) varies markedly by region and over time. This review summarizes the burden of IMD in different countries and identifies the highest-incidence countries where routine preventive programs against Neisseria meningitidis would be most beneficial in providing protection. Available epidemiological data from the past 20 years in World Health Organization and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control collections and published articles are included in this review, as well as direct communications with leading experts in the field. Countries were grouped into high-, moderate-, and low-incidence countries. The majority of countries in the high-incidence group are found in the African meningitis belt; many moderate-incidence countries are found in the European and African regions, and Australia, while low-incidence countries include many from Europe and the Americas. Priority countries for vaccine intervention are high- and moderate-incidence countries where vaccine-preventable serogroups predominate. Epidemiological data on burden of IMD are needed in countries where this is not known, particularly in South- East Asia and Eastern Mediterranean regions, so evidence-based decisions about the use of meningococcal vaccines can be made.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-17
PMCID: PMC3848799  PMID: 24016339
Meningococcus; Neisseria meningitidis; Invasive meningococcal disease; Meningitis; Epidemiology; Meningitis belt
18.  Risk and prevention of meningococcal disease among education workers: A review 
The aims of the present study were to review the risk of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) among education workers, particularly pregnant women, and to evaluate preventive measures, in a context of endemicity, outbreak or epidemic as observed in the province of Quebec. The literature was reviewed and persons in charge of IMD surveillance in France, Quebec, the United Kingdom and the United States were interviewed. Surveys of asymptomatic carriage of Neisseria meningitidis show that transmission among students is higher than transmission between students and teachers. IMD incidence among education workers was analyzed in Cheshire (United Kingdom) in the period from 1997 to 1999, and the results indicated a risk six times higher than that in the general population. Overestimation of the magnitude of the risk is possible because the analysis focused on a cluster. None of the population-based studies of IMD mentioned a risk of secondary cases among education workers. Six IMD cases in education workers were identified in five clusters in schools in the United Kingdom, but not in the other countries. There is no epidemiological study on IMD risk among pregnant women, and this factor was not mentioned in any published review of IMD. Immunization of education workers at the beginning of their employment, using serogroup C glycoconjugate vaccine or a combined A, C, W-135, and Y conjugate vaccine (still under development), could reduce IMD risk, but the cost effectiveness of this measure should be evaluated. The societal benefit of excluding pregnant women from the work place during an outbreak seems to be very low, even if disease risk could be decreased for this specific group. When chemoprophylaxis is indicated for the control of an outbreak in an educational setting, treatment should be offered both to students and teachers in the group at risk.
PMCID: PMC2094960  PMID: 18159482
Disease risk; Education; Neisseria meningitidis; Occupational health; Prevention
19.  Population Snapshot of Invasive Serogroup B Meningococci in South Africa from 2005 to 2008 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(8):2577-2584.
In South Africa, serogroup B meningococcal disease is sporadic. The aim of this study was to characterize serogroup B strains causing invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in South Africa from 2005 to 2008. Isolates, collected through a national, laboratory-based surveillance program for IMD, were characterized by multilocus sequence typing (MLST). Two thousand two hundred thirty-four cases were reported, of which 1,447 had viable isolates. Intermediate resistance to penicillin was observed in 2.8% (41/1,447) of all strains. Serogroup B was the second most common serogroup (17%, 251/1,447) and increased from 14% (58/414) in 2005 to 25% (72/290) in 2008 (P < 0.001); however, incidence remained stable during the study period (average incidence, 0.13/100,000 population) (P = 0.54). Serogroup B was predominantly characterized by three clonal complexes, namely, ST-41/44/lineage 3, ST-32/ET-5, and the new complex ST-4240/6688, which accounted for 27% (65/242), 23% (55/242), and 16% (38/242) of isolates, respectively. ST-4240/6688 was more prevalent among young children (<5 years) than other clonal complexes (27/37 [73%] versus 108/196 [55%]; P = 0.04). In the most densely populated province of South Africa, Gauteng, the prevalence of ST-32/ET-5 increased from 8% (2/24) in 2005 to 38% (9/24) in 2008 (P = 0.04). Capsular switching was observed in 8/242 (3%) strains. The newly assigned clonal complex ST-4240/6688 was more common in young children.
doi:10.1128/JCM.00401-12
PMCID: PMC3421525  PMID: 22593593
20.  Characterization of serogroup A Neisseria meningitidis from invasive meningococcal disease cases in Canada between 1979 and 2006: Epidemiological links to returning travellers 
INTRODUCTION
Serogroup A Neisseria meningitidis has repeatedly caused epidemics of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in developing nations since the 1960s. The present study is the first detailed study of serogroup A bacteria isolated in Canada.
METHODS
Thirty-four serogroup A meningococcal isolates collected from individuals with IMD in Canada between 1979 and 2006 were characterized by serology and multilocus sequence typing of seven housekeeping enzyme genes and genes encoding three outer membrane protein antigens.
RESULTS
Isolates were assigned to either the sequence type (ST)-1 or the ST-5 clonal complex. Clones within the ST-1 complex were recovered between 1979 and 1992, while clones of the ST-5 complex were isolated between 1987 and 2006; respectively, they accounted for 70.6% and 29.4% of all isolates studied. Isolates of the ST-1 complex were characterized by serosubtype antigen P1.3 or P1.3,6 with PorB allele 60 (serotype 4) and FetA sequence F5-1, while isolates of the ST-5 complex were characterized by serosubtype antigen P1.9 with PorB allele 47 (also serotype 4) and FetA sequence F3-1.
CONCLUSIONS
The Canadian serogroup A IMD isolates likely originated in travellers returning from hyperendemic or epidemic areas of the globe where serogroup A bacteria circulate. Although the Canadian cases of serogroup A IMD were caused by clones known to have caused epidemics in developing countries, disease incidence remained low in Canada.
PMCID: PMC2605869  PMID: 19412379
Canada; Invasive meningococcal disease; Neisseria meningitides; Serogroup A
21.  Effect of a serogroup A meningococcal conjugate vaccine (PsA–TT) on serogroup A meningococcal meningitis and carriage in Chad: a community study 
Lancet  2013;383(9911):40-47.
Summary
Background
A serogroup A meningococcal polysaccharide–tetanus toxoid conjugate vaccine (PsA–TT, MenAfriVac) was licensed in India in 2009, and pre-qualified by WHO in 2010, on the basis of its safety and immunogenicity. This vaccine is now being deployed across the African meningitis belt. We studied the effect of PsA–TT on meningococcal meningitis and carriage in Chad during a serogroup A meningococcal meningitis epidemic.
Methods
We obtained data for the incidence of meningitis before and after vaccination from national records between January, 2009, and June, 2012. In 2012, surveillance was enhanced in regions where vaccination with PsA–TT had been undertaken in 2011, and in one district where a reactive vaccination campaign in response to an outbreak of meningitis was undertaken. Meningococcal carriage was studied in an age-stratified sample of residents aged 1–29 years of a rural area roughly 13–15 and 2–4 months before and 4–6 months after vaccination. Meningococci obtained from cerebrospinal fluid or oropharyngeal swabs were characterised by conventional microbiological and molecular methods.
Findings
Roughly 1·8 million individuals aged 1–29 years received one dose of PsA–TT during a vaccination campaign in three regions of Chad in and around the capital N'Djamena during 10 days in December, 2011. The incidence of meningitis during the 2012 meningitis season in these three regions was 2·48 per 100 000 (57 cases in the 2·3 million population), whereas in regions without mass vaccination, incidence was 43·8 per 100 000 (3809 cases per 8·7 million population), a 94% difference in crude incidence (p<0·0001), and an incidence rate ratio of 0·096 (95% CI 0·046–0·198). Despite enhanced surveillance, no case of serogroup A meningococcal meningitis was reported in the three vaccinated regions. 32 serogroup A carriers were identified in 4278 age-stratified individuals (0·75%) living in a rural area near the capital 2–4 months before vaccination, whereas only one serogroup A meningococcus was isolated in 5001 people living in the same community 4–6 months after vaccination (adjusted odds ratio 0·019, 95% CI 0·002–0·138; p<0·0001).
Interpretation
PSA–TT was highly effective at prevention of serogroup A invasive meningococcal disease and carriage in Chad. How long this protection will persist needs to be established.
Funding
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and Médecins Sans Frontères.
doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61612-8
PMCID: PMC3898950  PMID: 24035220
22.  Clonal Waves of Neisseria Colonisation and Disease in the African Meningitis Belt: Eight- Year Longitudinal Study in Northern Ghana 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e101.
Background
The Kassena-Nankana District of northern Ghana lies in the African “meningitis belt” where epidemics of meningococcal meningitis have been reoccurring every eight to 12 years for the last 100 years. The dynamics of meningococcal colonisation and disease are incompletely understood, and hence we embarked on a long-term study to determine how levels of colonisation with different bacterial serogroups change over time, and how the patterns of disease relate to such changes.
Methods and Findings
Between February 1998 and November 2005, pharyngeal carriage of Neisseria meningitidis in the Kassena-Nankana District was studied by twice-yearly colonisation surveys. Meningococcal disease was monitored throughout the eight-year study period, and patient isolates were compared to the colonisation isolates. The overall meningococcal colonisation rate of the study population was 6.0%. All culture-confirmed patient isolates and the majority of carriage isolates were associated with three sequential waves of colonisation with encapsulated (A ST5, X ST751, and A ST7) meningococci. Compared to industrialised countries, the colonising meningococcal population was less constant in genotype composition over time and was genetically less diverse during the peaks of the colonisation waves, and a smaller proportion of the isolates was nonserogroupable. We observed a broad age range in the healthy carriers, resembling that of meningitis patients during large disease epidemics.
Conclusions
The observed lack of a temporally stable and genetically diverse resident pharyngeal flora of meningococci might contribute to the susceptibility to meningococcal disease epidemics of residents in the African meningitis belt. Because capsular conjugate vaccines are known to impact meningococcal carriage, effects on herd immunity and potential serogroup replacement should be monitored following the introduction of such vaccines.
An analysis of pharyngeal carriage of meningococci in one district of Ghana examined the features of the isolates that might contribute to the susceptibility to meningococcal epidemics in the African meningitis belt.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Bacterial meningitis is a rare but often fatal infection of the meninges—the thin membrane around the brain and the spinal cord. It can be caused by several types of bacteria, but meningococcal meningitis, which is caused by Neisseria meningitidis, is the most common form of bacterial meningitis in children and the second most common form in adults. About 10% of healthy people have N. meningitidis growing in their nose and throat; the bacteria are spread by exposure to infected respiratory secretions. In these “carriers,” the immune system keeps the bug in check but sometimes this surveillance fails, N. meningitidis enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain, where it infects the meninges and causes inflammation. The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis are sudden fever, headache, and a stiff neck and, even if strong antibiotics are given quickly, 10%–15% of patients die.
Why Was This Study Done?
Outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis occur all over the world, but the highest burden of disease is in the African meningitis belt, which stretches across sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia. Here, localized epidemics of meningococcal meningitis occur every eight to 12 years during the dry season. Control of these epidemics relies on their early detection followed by mass immunization. This approach can be hard to implement in countries with limited resources, but the introduction of other control measures (for example, routine childhood immunization) requires an understanding of how the spread of different strains of N. meningitides through the community causes periodic epidemics. In this study, the researchers have studied the long-term dynamics of colonization by N. meningitidis and the occurrence of meningococcal meningitis in one region of the African meningitis belt.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers took throat swabs twice a year from people living in rural northern Ghana for eight years. They tested each swab for N. meningitidis and determined the serogroup of the bacteria they found. Bacterial serogroups differ only in terms of the antigens (molecules recognized by the immune system) that they express; N. meningitidis is classified into 13 serogroups based on the sugars that coat its surface. The researchers also used DNA sequencing to group the bacterial isolates into genoclouds—genetically closely related groups of meningococci represented by a sequence type (ST) number. Finally, they monitored meningococcal disease throughout the study and determined the serogroup and genocloud of patient isolates. Their results show colonization of 6% of the study population by N. meningitidis and reveal three consecutive waves of colonization and disease characterized by the presence of a serogroup A ST5 genocloud, a serogroup X ST751 genocloud, and finally a serogroup A ST7 genocloud. Colonizing bacteria isolated in this study in Ghana, the researchers report, changed their genotype more frequently but were less genetically diverse than those isolated in industrialized countries. In addition, the commonest serogroups of N. meningitidis in carriers in Ghana were disease-causing serogroups, whereas in industrialized countries these serogroups are rarely seen in carriers. However, non-groupable bacteria (bacteria that lack surface sugars), although common in industrialized countries, were rare in Ghana.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings begin to explain why epidemics of meningococcal meningitis are common in the African meningitis belt. Because there isn't a stable, genetically diverse population of N. meningitidis in carriers, the immune systems of people living here may not be optimally prepared to deal with new bacterial clones that arrive in the region, and this lack of immunity could result in frequent epidemics. However, because the researchers took relatively few samples every six months from one small area of the meningitis belt, the genetic diversity of N. meningitidis over the whole region might be considerably greater than that colonizing the study population. Nevertheless, the description of successive waves of meningococci colonization in Ghana has important implications for the proposed introduction of childhood vaccination against meninogococcal disease in the African meningitis belt. If this vaccination program goes ahead, warn the researchers, it will be essential to monitor which strains of N. meningitidis are colonizing the population and to have emergency plans ready to deal with any emerging disease-causing serogroups that are not covered by the vaccine.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040101.
The Web sites of the institutions at which this research was performed, the Swiss Tropical Institute and the Navrongo Health Research Centre, provide more information about the programs
The World Health Organization provides information on meningococcal disease, including the African meningitis belt (in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Arabic)
Information on meningitis and vaccines and their potential use in Africa is available from the Meningitis Vaccine Project (in English and French)
Medline Plus has encyclopedia pages on meningococcal meningitis
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on meningococcal disease (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040101
PMCID: PMC1831736  PMID: 17388665
23.  New Rapid Diagnostic Tests for Neisseria meningitidis Serogroups A, W135, C, and Y 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(9):e337.
Background
Outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis (meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis) are a major public health concern in the African “meningitis belt,” which includes 21 countries from Senegal to Ethiopia. Of the several species that can cause meningitis, N. meningitidis is the most important cause of epidemics in this region. In choosing the appropriate vaccine, accurate N. meningitidis serogroup determination is key. To this end, we developed and evaluated two duplex rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for detecting N. meningitidis polysaccharide (PS) antigens of several important serogroups.
Methods and Findings
Mouse monoclonal IgG antibodies against N. meningitidis PS A, W135/Y, Y, and C were used to develop two immunochromatography duplex RDTs, RDT1 (to detect serogroups A and W135/Y) and RDT2 (to detect serogroups C and Y). Standards for Reporting of Diagnostic Accuracy criteria were used to determine diagnostic accuracy of RDTs on reference strains and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples using culture and PCR, respectively, as reference tests. The cutoffs were 105 cfu/ml for reference strains and 1 ng/ml for PS. Sensitivities and specificities were 100% for reference strains, and 93.8%–100% for CSF serogroups A, W135, and Y in CSF. For CSF serogroup A, the positive and negative likelihood ratios (± 95% confidence intervals [CIs]) were 31.867 (16.1–63.1) and 0.065 (0.04–0.104), respectively, and the diagnostic odds ratio (± 95% CI) was 492.9 (207.2–1,172.5). For CSF serogroups W135 and Y, the positive likelihood ratio was 159.6 (51.7–493.3) Both RDTs were equally reliable at 25 °C and 45 °C.
Conclusions
These RDTs are important new bedside diagnostic tools for surveillance of meningococcus serogroups A and W135, the two serogroups that are responsible for major epidemics in Africa.
There are several strains ofNeisseria meningitidis that can cause seasonal outbreaks of meningitis in Africa. Treatment of patients and containment of the epidemic through vaccination depends on which strain is responsible. The new dipstick tests described here are accurate and suitable for storage and use in resource-poor settings.
Editors' Summary
Background
Bacterial meningitis, a potentially deadly infection of tissues that line the brain and spinal cord, affects over 1 million people each year. Patients with bacterial meningitis usually have fever, headache, and stiff neck, and may become unconscious and die if the disease is not treated within hours. Most cases of bacterial meningitis occur in Africa, particularly in the arid savannah region south of the Sahara known as the Sahel, where epidemic outbreaks of meningitis occur periodically. This region, also called the “meningitis belt,” extends from Senegal and adjacent coastal countries in West Africa across the continent to Ethiopia. Although most outbreaks tend to occur in the dry season, they differ in frequency in different areas of the meningitis belt, and may involve any of several kinds of bacteria. One of the major causes of epidemic meningitis is Neisseria meningitidis, a meningococcus bacterium that exists in several different groups. Group A has been a common cause of epidemic meningitis in Africa, and some outbreaks were due to group C. More recently, group W135 has emerged as an epidemic strain. In addition to prompt diagnosis and treatment of individual cases, effective public health strategies for controlling meningococcal meningitis include rapid identification of outbreaks and determination of the type of bacteria involved, followed by mass vaccination of people in the surrounding area without delay. Vaccines are chosen on the basis of the responsible meningococcal serogroup: either the inexpensive bivalent vaccine A/C or the expensive, less readily available trivalent vaccine A/C/W135. Before the advent of W135 as an epidemic clone, bivalent vaccine was applied in the meningitis belt without identification of the serogroup. With the appearance of the W135 strain in 2003, however, the determination of serogroup before vaccination is important to select an effective vaccine and avoid misspending of limited funds.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because there are few laboratories in the affected countries and epidemiological surveillance systems are inadequate, it is difficult for health authorities to mount a rapid and effective vaccination campaign in response to an outbreak. In addition, because the two main bacteria (meningococcus and pneumococcus) that cause meningitis require different antibiotic treatments, it is important for doctors to find out quickly which bacteria is causing an individual case. The authors of this study wanted to develop a rapid and easy test that can tell whether meningococcus is the cause of a particular case of meningitis, and if so, which group of meningococcus is involved. As most outbreaks in the meningitis belt occur in rural areas that are distant from well-equipped medical laboratories, it was necessary to develop a test that can be carried out at the patient's bedside by nurses, does not require refrigeration or laboratory equipment, and is highly accurate in distinguishing among the different groups of meningococcus.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers have developed a rapid test to determine whether a patient's meningitis is caused by one of the four most common groups of meningococcus circulating in Africa. The test is done on the patient's spinal fluid, which is obtained by a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) as part of the usual evaluation of a patient thought to have meningitis. The test uses two paper strips, also called dipsticks (one for groups A and W135/Y, and the other for groups C and Y), that can be placed in two separate tubes of the patient's spinal fluid. After several minutes, the appearance of red lines on the dipsticks shows whether one of the four groups of meningococcus is present. The dipsticks can be produced in large quantities and relatively cheaply. The researchers showed that the test dipsticks are stable for weeks in hot weather, and are therefore practical for bedside use in resource-poor settings. They examined the test on stored spinal fluid from patients in Niger and found that the dipstick test was able to identify the correct group of meningococcus more than 95% of the time for the three groups represented in these specimens (the results were compared to a standard DNA test or culture that are highly accurate for identifying the type of bacteria present but much more complicated and expensive).
What Do These Findings Mean?
The new dipstick test for meningococcal meningitis represents a major advance for health-care workers in remote locations affected by meningitis epidemics. This test can be stored without refrigeration and used at bedside in the hot temperatures typical of the African savannah during the meningitis season. The dipsticks are easier to use than currently available test kits, give more rapid results, and are more accurate in telling the difference between group Y and the increasingly important group W135. Further research is needed to determine whether the test can be used with other clinical specimens (such as blood or urine), and whether the test is dependable for detecting group C meningococcus, which is common in Europe but rare in Africa. Nonetheless, the dipstick test promises to be an important tool for guiding individual treatment decisions as well as public health actions, including vaccine selection, against the perennial threat of epidemic meningitis.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030337.
World Health Organization fact sheet on meningococcal meningitis
PATH Meningitis Vaccine Project
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page on meningococcal disease
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030337
PMCID: PMC1563501  PMID: 16953658
24.  Profile of serogroup Y meningococcal infections in Canada: Implications for vaccine selection 
Canada is a leader in establishing routine infant immunization programs against meningococcal C disease. Currently, all provinces have routine programs to provide meningococcal C conjugate vaccines to infants and children. The result of the existing programs has been a decrease in serogroup C incidence. The second most common vaccine-preventable serogroup in Canada is serogroup Y, the incidence of which has been stable. The availability of a quadrivalent conjugate vaccine against serogroups A, C, Y and W135 focuses attention on serogroup Y disease as it becomes relatively more prominent as a cause of vaccine-preventable invasive meningococcal disease. This vaccine was licensed in November 2006 but is not routinely used except in Nunavut, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. To allow a better understanding of the ‘value added’ by a serogroup Y-containing vaccine, it is necessary to have a contemporary profile of Y disease in Canada. In the present paper, recent surveillance data on invasive meningococcal disease across Canada are summarized.
PMCID: PMC2807258  PMID: 21119789
Invasive meningococcal disease; Meningococcal vaccine; Morbidity; Mortality; Neisseria meningitides; Serogroups A, C, Y, W135
25.  An expanded age range for meningococcal meningitis: molecular diagnostic evidence from population-based surveillance in Asia 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:310.
Background
To understand epidemiologic patterns of meningococcal disease in Asia, we performed a retrospective molecular analysis of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimens collected in prospective surveillance among children aged < 5 years of age in China, South Korea, and Vietnam.
Methods
A total of 295 isolates and 2,302 CSFs were tested by a meningococcal species- and serogroup-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay targeting the Neisseria meningitidis (Nm) ctrA gene. Multi-locus sequence typing (MLST) was performed in Nm gene amplification analysis and incidence rates for meningococcal meningitis were estimated.
Results
Among 295 isolates tested, 10 specimens from Vietnam were confirmed as serogroup B and all were Sequence Type (ST) 1576 by MLST. Among the 2,032 CSF specimen tested, 284 (14%) were confirmed by PCR (ctrA gene), including 67 (23.6%) from China, 92 (32.4%) from Korea, and 125 (44.0%) from Vietnam. Neonates and infants aged < 6 months of age accounted for more than 50% of Nm-PCR positive CSF. Two CSF specimens from Vietnam were identified as serogroup B using MLST. In addition, 44 specimens underwent sequencing to confirm meningococcal serogroup; of these, 21 (48%) were serogroup C, 12 (27%) were serogroup X, 9 (20%) were serogroup Y and 2 (5%) were serogroup B. The incidence rates of meningococcal meningitis among children < 5 years of age was highest in Vietnam (7.4/100,000 [95% CI, 3.6—15.3] followed by Korea (6.8/100,000 [95% CI, 3.5-13.5] and China (2.1/100,000) [95% CI, 0.7-6.2]).
Conclusions
These results suggest that there is a previously undetected, yet substantial burden of meningococcal meningitis among infants and young children. Standardized, sensitive and specific molecular diagnostic assays with Nm serogrouping capacity are needed throughout Asia to understand the true burden of N. meningitidis disease.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-310
PMCID: PMC3519641  PMID: 23164061
Cerebrospinal fluid; Meningococcal meningitis; Neisseria meningitidis; Serogroup; Surveillance

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