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Microbiology. 2015 Jul;161(7):1297-1312. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.000086. Epub 2015 Mar 26.

Non-pathogenic Neisseria: members of an abundant, multi-habitat, diverse genus.

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Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3RE, UK.


The genus Neisseria contains the important pathogens Neisseria meningitidis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. These Gram-negative coccoid bacteria are generally thought to be restricted to humans and inhabit mucosal surfaces in the upper respiratory and genito-urinary tracts. While the meningococcus and gonococcus have been widely studied, far less attention has been paid to other Neisseria species. Here we review current knowledge of the distribution of commensal Neisseria in humans and other hosts. Analysis of the microbiome has revealed that Neisseria is an abundant member of the oropharyngeal flora, and we review its potential impact on health and disease. Neisseria also exhibit remarkable diversity, exhibiting both coccoid and rod-shaped morphologies, as well as environmental strains which are capable of degrading complex organic molecules.

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