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Infect Immun. 2002 Mar;70(3):1301-9.

Characterization of humoral and cellular immune responses elicited by meningococcal carriage.

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Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, University Hospital, Nottingham, United Kingdom.


In order to study the immune response elicited by asymptomatic carriage of Neisseria meningitidis, samples of serum, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), and saliva were collected from a cohort of more than 200 undergraduate students in Nottingham, United Kingdom, who were subject to high rates of acquisition and carriage of meningococci. Serum immunoglobulin G levels were elevated following increases in the rate of carriage, and these responses were specific for the colonizing strains. In order to investigate T-cell responses, PBMCs from 15 individuals were stimulated with a whole-cell lysate of the H44/76 meningococcal strain (B:15:P1.7,16), stained to detect cell surface markers and intracellular cytokines, and examined by flow cytometry. The cells were analyzed for expression of CD69 (to indicate activation), gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) (a representative T-helper 1 subset [Th1]-associated cytokine), and interleukin-5 (IL-5) (a Th2-associated cytokine). Following a brief meningococcal stimulation, the numbers of CD69(+) IFN-gamma(+) CD56/16(+) NK cells were much higher than cytokine-positive CD4(+) events. Both IFN-gamma(+) and IL-5(+) events were detected among the CD69(+) CD4(+) population, leading to the conclusion that an unbiased T-helper subset response was elicited by meningococcal carriage.

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