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Lancet Infect Dis. 2003 Sep;3(9):565-77.

Host genetic determinants of Neisseria meningitidis infections.

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Laboratory of Paediatrics, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Erratum in

  • Lancet Infect Dis. 2003 Dec;3(12):815.


The clinical presentation of infections caused by Neisseria meningitidis is highly diverse. Some patients develop meningitis, and others present with sepsis or even septic shock. After invasion of the bloodstream by the bacteria, three main cascade pathways are activated. These are the complement system, the inflammatory response, and the coagulation and fibrinolysis pathway. These pathways do not act independently but are able to interact with each other. Genetic polymorphisms among components of these pathways have been shown to be involved in the susceptibility, severity, and outcome of meningococcal disease. We review knowledge of genetic variations associated with susceptibility to and severity of meningococcal infection. Complement deficiencies and defects in sensing or opsonophagocytic pathways, such as the rare Toll-like receptor 4 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and combinations of inefficient variants of Fcgamma-receptors, seem to have the most important role in genetically established susceptibility. Effect on severity has repeatedly been reported for FcgammaRIIa and plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 (PAI1) polymorphisms. Outcome effects have been confirmed for SNPs in properdin deficiencies, PAI1 and combination of the -511C/T SNP in interleukin 1beta, and the +2018C/T SNP in interleukin RN. Conflicting results are reported for the effect of the -308G/A promoter polymorphism in tumour necrosis factor (TNF) alpha. These differences may reflect discrepancies in group definitions between studies or the influence of additional SNPs in the TNFalpha promoter, which can form haplotypes representing different cytokine production capacity. For several SNPs, the potential effect on susceptibility, severity, or outcome has not yet been confirmed in an independent study.

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