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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The elusive meningococcal meningitis serogroup: a systematic review of serogroup B epidemiology

Vanessa N Racloz1* and Silva JD Luiz2

Author Affiliations

1 Swiss Tropical Institute, Socinstrasse 57, 4002, Basel, Switzerland

2 Novartis Vaccines, 350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:175  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-175

Published: 17 June 2010



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.


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.


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.


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.