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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2003 Oct 24;39(1):23-9.

Carriage of Neisseria meningitidis and Neisseria lactamica in northern Greece.

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National Meningitis Reference Laboratory, National School of Public Health, 196 Alexandras Ave., Athens, Greece.


In response to an increase in the number of cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in northern regions of Greece, a survey was carried out to determine if there was an increase in carriage of Neisseria meningitidis, particularly in areas where there have been increases in immigrant populations from neighbouring countries. The second objective was to determine if there was an increase in the serogroup C:2a:P1.5,2 a phenotype associated with recent outbreaks or changes in antibiotic sensitivities. As carriage of Neisseria lactamica is associated with development of natural immunity to IMD, the third objective was to determine the carriage rate of N. lactamica in this population. Among 3167 individuals tested, meningococci were isolated from 334 (10.5%). Compared with our previous studies, the proportion of meningococcal carriers was significantly increased among children in secondary education (11.3%) (chi2=9.67, P<0.005) and military recruits (37.4%) (chi2=21.11, P<0.000). Only 5/334 (1.5%) isolates expressed the phenotype associated with the increase in IMD in Greece. N. lactamica was isolated from 146/3167 (4.6%) participants. It was isolated from 71/987 (7.2%) children attending primary or nursery schools; however, the highest proportion of carriers (11.3%) was found in the boarding school for young Albanian men. In the 21-59-year age range, the majority of N. lactamica isolates (22/25, 88%) were from women, probably due to closer or more prolonged contact with children in the primary school age range. Smoking was significantly associated with isolation of meningococci from men but not from women. Penicillin-insensitive strains (25/334, 7.5%) were identified in all four regions examined; the majority (14/25, 56%) were obtained from military personnel. We conclude that there was a higher proportion of carriers in the population of northern Greece; however, the increase in carriage rate was not associated with the influx of immigrants from neighbouring countries, and there was not a higher incidence of the C:2a:P1.5,2 strain responsible for increased disease activity in Greece in either the immigrant or local populations.

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