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Serogroup A meningococci have been the major cause of epidemic meningococcal disease in Africa throughout the last 100 years. The reasons for this unusual pattern of behaviour have remained unclear and there remain significant debates and logistic difficulties around the appropriate use of plain A/C polysaccharide vaccination to control African meningococcal disease. Since the Hajj pilgrimage of 2000 serogroup W135 organisms (of the ST-11 clonal complex) have emerged as a further significant cause of epidemic meningococcal disease in Africa. Whilst advances in molecular biological and genetic techniques have yielded increasing insights into meningococcal epidemiology there remain many unanswered questions about the reason for the emergence of a serogroup W135 clone capable of epidemic behaviour and in particular its relation to past use of group A/C polysaccharide. The high cost and short supply of quadrivalent (A,C,Y, W135) vaccine to protect against W135 disease has added to what was already the significant burden of controlling serogroup A meningococcal disease. The ability of virulent meningococcal clones to acquire new capsule types raises further concerns about the future nature of meningococcal disease in Africa and the strategies of vaccination use and development necessary to contain it.

Original publication




Journal article


Travel Med Infect Dis

Publication Date





19 - 28