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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2000 Jul;28(3):189-91.

Prevalence of de-O-acetylated serogroup C meningococci before the introduction of meningococcal serogroup C conjugate vaccines in the United Kingdom.

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Meningococcal Reference Unit, Manchester Public Health Laboratory, Withington Hospital, Nell Lane, West Didsbury, M20 2LR, Manchester, UK.


Meningococcal serogroup C conjugate (MCC) vaccines have been introduced in the UK to combat the rise in serogroup C meningococcal disease. Serogroup C meningococci may occur naturally expressing either O-acetylated (Oac(+)) or de-O-acetylated (Oac(-)) polysaccharide capsules. In a small study in the USA in the 1970s 15% of serogroup C meningococcal case isolates were reported to be Oac(-) though the prevalence of these Oac(-) isolates has not been recorded in the UK. This is of interest as the first MCC vaccines to be introduced are Oac(+) and the potential impact of this on Oac(-) serogroup C isolates is unclear. Serogroup C isolates submitted to the Public Health Laboratory Service Meningococcal Reference Unit in January 1998 (n=113) and January 1999 (n=162) were investigated by dot blotting using monoclonals specific for Oac(+) and Oac(-) serogroup C polysaccharides. This revealed 12% Oac(-) isolates for both January 1998 and January 1999. The proportion of fatal cases was found to similar for both Oac(-) and Oac(+), 14 and 9% for 1998 and 5 and 3% for 1999, indicating that the pathogenic potential of these Oac(-) isolates is similar to Oac(+). The acetylation status of serogroup C isolates needs to be monitored throughout and after the introduction of MCC vaccines.

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