The Diversity of Meningococcal Carriage Across the African Meningitis Belt and the Impact of Vaccination With a Group A Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine

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Background. Study of meningococcal carriage is essential to understanding the epidemiology of Neisseria meningitidis infection. Methods. Twenty cross-sectional carriage surveys were conducted in 7 countries in the African meningitis belt; 5 surveys were conducted after introduction of a new serogroup A meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac). Pharyngeal swab specimens were collected, and Neisseria species were identified by microbiological and molecular techniques. Results. A total of 1687 of 48 490 participants (3.4%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.2%–3.6%) carried menin-gococci. Carriage was more frequent in individuals aged 5–14 years, relative to those aged 15–29 years (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.41; 95% CI, 1.25–1.60); in males, relative to females (adjusted OR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.10–1.24); in indi-viduals in rural areas, relative to those in urban areas (adjusted OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.28–1.63); and in the dry season, relative to the rainy season (adjusted OR, 1.54; 95% CI, 1.37–1.75). Forty-eight percent of isolates had genes encoding disease-associated polysaccharide capsules; genogroup W predominated, and genogroup A was rare. Strain diversity was lower in countries in the center of the meningitis belt than in Senegal or Ethiopia. The prevalence of genogroup A fell from 0.7% to 0.02% in Chad following mass vaccination with MenAfriVac. Conclusions. The prevalence of meningococcal carriage in the African meningitis belt is lower than in indus-trialized countries and is very diverse and dynamic, even in the absence of vaccination.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Africa
  • Neisseria meningitidis
  • carriage
  • meningitis
  • meningococcus

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