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J Infect Dis. 2003 May 15;187(10):1616-28. Epub 2003 Apr 30.

Genetic basis for nongroupable Neisseria meningitidis.

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Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Decatur, Georgia, USA.


Nongroupable Neisseria meningitidis may constitute one-third or more of meningococcal isolates recovered from the nasopharynx of human carriers. The genetic basis for nongroupability was determined in isolates obtained from a population-based study in which 60 (30.9%) of 194 meningococcal isolates from asymptomatic carriers were not groupable. Forty-two percent of nongroupable isolates were related to serogroup Y ET-508/ST-23 clonal complex strains, the most common groupable carrier isolate from the study population. Nongroupable isolates were all rapidly killed by 10% normal human serum. The capsule loci of 6 of the ET-508/ST-23 complex strains and of 25 other genetically diverse nongroupable meningococci were studied in detail. Serogroup A or novel capsule biosynthesis genes were not found. Nongroupable isolates were genetically serogroup Y, B, or C isolates that did not express capsule but were related to groupable isolates found in the population (class I); capsule deficient because of insertion element-associated deletions of capsule biosynthesis genes (class II); or isolates that lacked all capsule genes and formed a distinct genetic cluster not associated with meningococcal disease (class III).

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