Meningococcal meningitis: clonal waves of colonisation and disease in the meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa

Bacterial meningitis is a medical emergency and remains one of the major health problems in Sub-Saharan Africa. The three most important agents are Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Haemophilus influenzae. All three pathogens are common colonizers of the human nasopharynx, invasive disease is usually a rare event. However, N. meningitidis is known for its potential to cause meningitis epidemics especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the so called African Meningitis Belt, epidemics of meningococcal meningitis reccur every 8-12 years with incidence rates of up to 1% in the affected population.

The bacterial meningitis project involves longitudinal studies of the molecular epidemiology of comparatively carriage and disease of N. meningititdis and S. pneumoniae. The studies are being carried out in Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso and aim to enhance the understanding of the dynamics of meningitis epidemics in the African Meningitis Belt. The results provide important background information for the evaluation and introduction of new conjugate vaccines against meningococcal and pneumococcal infections in Africa.


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