Meningococcal cases traced to three bacteria strains

Three families of bacteria cause over half of meningococcal cases
Three families of bacteria cause over half of meningococcal cases | Courtesy of
Researchers from the University of Oxford recently identified three families of deadly bacteria that have caused 60 percent of the meningococcal disease cases in Wales and England for the last 20 years.

The scientists used genome analysis to make this discovery. Their study involved 899 individual bacterial isolates to find that there are 20 families of the Neisseriea meningitidis bacteria based in Wales and England. Out of these 20, just three of them caused 59 percent of the cases in Wales and England.

“It is hugely important to have high-quality, high-resolution information on bacterial lineages,” Martin Maiden, professor of molecular epidemiology at Oxford University, said. “Meningococcal disease has been around for a long time and has undergone wide fluctuations in incidence. Having access to a coherent set of genomic sequence data for Neisseria meningitidis will enable clinicians and scientists to recognize patterns in disease trends, predict outbreaks, develop targeted interventions and evaluate how well vaccines are working.”

This discovery demonstrates that there are strong connections with bacterial families and specific age groups of people who contract the diseases. Both of these factors have important roles in determining whether meningitis vaccines are effective.

“This will be particularly important for monitoring the success of the new MenB vaccine (Bexsero), which was introduced to the U.K. childhood immunization program in September,” Maiden said.

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