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Res Microbiol. 1999 May;150(4):273-80.

Microevolution through DNA exchange among strains of Neisseria meningitidis isolated during an outbreak in the Czech Republic.

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National Reference Laboratory for Meningococcal Infections, NIPH, Prague, Czech Republic.


Neisseria meningitidis is a highly variable bacterium. Indeed, N. meningitidis is naturally competent for transformation, and horizontal DNA exchange between strains may lead to mosaic genetic loci in N. meningitidis. We studied such an exchange in nature during an epidemic provoked by N. meningitidis. This epidemic started in the Czech Republic in 1993 and the original epidemic clone was shown to have the antigenic formula (serogroup:serotype:serosubtype) C:2a:P1.2,5. We analysed 145 meningococcal strains isolated in the Czech Republic between 1993 and 1997 using serological and genetic typing methods (multilocus enzyme electrophoresis and polymorphism of pilA and pilD genes). This analysis showed that genetic exchange between epidemic and endemic strains had occurred. Exchanges involved mostly surface-exposed structures such as the capsule, giving rise to new meningococcal variants. The expansion of these variants should be kept under close surveillance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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