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J Clin Microbiol. 1994 Feb; 32(2): 323–330.
PMCID: PMC263032

Asymptomatic carriage of Neisseria meningitidis in a randomly sampled population.


To estimate the extent of meningococcal carriage in the Norwegian population and to investigate the relationship of several characteristics of the population to the carrier state, 1,500 individuals living in rural and small-town areas near Oslo were selected at random from the Norwegian National Population Registry. These persons were asked to complete a questionnaire and to volunteer for a bacteriological tonsillopharyngeal swab sampling. Sixty-three percent of the selected persons participated in the survey. Ninety-one (9.6%) of the volunteers harbored Neisseria meningitidis. The isolates were serogrouped, serotyped, tested for antibiotic resistance, and analyzed by multilocus enzyme electrophoresis. Eight (8.8%) of the 91 isolates represented clones of the two clone complexes that have been responsible for most of the systemic meningococal disease in Norway in the 1980s. Age between 15 and 24, male sex, and active and passive smoking were found to be independently associated with meningococcal carriage in logistic regression analyses. Working outside the home and having an occupation in transportation or industry also increased the risk for meningococcal carriage in individuals older than 17, when corrections for gender and smoking were made. Assuming that our sample is representative of the Norwegian population, we estimated that about 40,000 individuals in Norway are asymptomatic carriers of isolates with epidemic potential. Thus, carriage eradication among close contacts of persons with systemic disease is unlikely to have a significant impact on the overall epidemiological situation.

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