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J Infect Dis. 2009 May 1;199(9):1360-8. doi: 10.1086/597806.

Meningococcal factor H-binding protein variants expressed by epidemic capsular group A, W-135, and X strains from Africa.

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Center for Immunobiology and Vaccine Development, Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Oakland, CA, USA.



Meningococcal epidemics in Africa are generally caused by capsular group A strains, but W-135 or X strains also cause epidemics in this region. Factor H-binding protein (fHbp) is a novel antigen being investigated for use in group B vaccines. Little is known about fHbp in strains from other capsular groups.


We investigated fHbp in 35 group A, W-135, and X strains from Africa.


The 22 group A isolates, which included each of the sequence types (STs) responsible for epidemics since 1963, and 4 group X and 3 group W-135 isolates from recent epidemics had genes encoding fHbp in antigenic variant group 1. The remaining 6 W-135 isolates had fHbp variant 2. Within each fHbp variant group, there was 92%-100% amino acid identity, and the proteins expressed conserved epitopes recognized by bactericidal monoclonal antibodies. Serum samples obtained from mice vaccinated with native outer membrane vesicle vaccines from mutants engineered to express fHbp variants had broad bactericidal activity against group A, W-135, or X strains.


Despite extensive natural exposure of the African population, fHbp is conserved among African strains. A native outer membrane vesicle vaccine that expresses fHbp variants can potentially elicit protective antibodies against strains from all capsular groups that cause epidemics in the region.

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