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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 1999 Jan;23(1):49-55.

Recent emergence of serogroup C meningococcal disease in Greece.

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National Meningococcal Reference Laboratory, National School of Public Health, Athens, Greece.


The number of cases of meningococcal disease reported to the Meningitis Reference Laboratory in Athens rose dramatically in 1996-1997. The aims were (1) to determine if the increase was due to introduction of new strains, (2) to assess the geographic and age distribution of the cases, (3) to compare antibiotic sensitivity patterns of the current isolates with strains from the early 1990s. In 1993-1994, 15/19 (74%) of the cases for which information on age was available were in children < or = 5 years; in 1995-1997, 80/179 (45%) of cases were in children < or = 5 years and 99 (55%) in the older age range (P < 0.02). From 593 cases in 1993 1997, 214 (36%) isolates were available for characterisation. Serogroup B was predominant in the early 1990s, but by 1997, serogroup C accounted for 46/72 (64%) of isolates and serogroup B for 25/72 (35%). Serogroup B was predominant in children < or = 5 years (44/78, 56%) but only 19/99 (18%) of older children and adults (P=0.0000005). Sulfonamide resistance decreased from 10/22 (45%) in 1993-1994 to 27/192 (14%) in 1995-1997 (P<0.01). Multilocus enzyme electrophoresis of 70 strains obtained during this period identified the epidemic ET-15 clone in 24 (34.3)%. The profiles of the Greek ET-15 isolates were identical to C:2a:P1.2(P1.5) strains responsible for the epidemic in the Czech Republic which began in 1993. This genotype was not found in Greek strains isolated prior to 1993. We conclude that the increase in meningococcal disease is due to introduction of the epidemic serogroup C:2a:P1.2(P1.5) strain responsible for disease in the Czech Republic and Canada.

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