Carriage meningococcal isolates with capsule null locus dominate among high school students in a non-endemic period, Italy, 2012–2013

Arianna Neri, Cecilia Fazio, Luigina Ambrosio, Paola Vacca, Annamaria Barbui, Laura Daprai, Caterina Vocale, Iolanda Santino, Marco Conte, Lucia Rossi, Andrea Ciammaruconi, Anna Anselmo, Florigio Lista, Paola Stefanelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Meningococcal disease incidence in Italy remains quite low in the overall population except for infants. Within a study on carriage isolates among high school students we aimed to define: i) the prevalence of carriage isolates, ii) the phenotypic and iii) the molecular features of meningococci by Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS). A total of 1697 pharyngeal samples from undergraduate students (age range 14–19 years) were collected from 2012 to 2013 from six larger cities in Italy. One hundred and twenty culture positive meningococci (7%) were analyzed. Carriage isolates were sent to the National Reference Laboratory for invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) for PCR-based serogroup identification, Multilocus Sequence Typing, PorA and FetA typing. Moreover, factor H binding protein (fHbp), Neisseria Heparin Binding Antigen (NHBA) and Neisserial adhesin A (NadA) were typed. Core genome MLST (cgMLST) was performed on a subsample of 75 carriage isolates. Capsule null locus (cnl) predominated (47%), followed by serogroup B (27%). The antimicrobial susceptibility profile revealed an high prevalence of reduced susceptibility to penicillin G (54%) and a full susceptibility to ceftriaxone, ciprofloxacin and rifampicin. Carriage isolates presented a high genetic diversity: the clonal complexes (cc s ) cc1136, cc198 and cc41/44, were the predominant. An high heterogeneity was also observed for PorA and FetA types. The fhbp and nhba genes were identified in all the carriage isolates; only 5% of the carriage isolates presented the nadA gene. The core genome MLST analysis revealed that the majority of the cnl isolates clustered in a distinct group. The evidence gathered during this study provides the estimate of carriage isolates in high school students in a non-epidemic period in Italy that was lower than expected. Moreover, the highest proportion of carriage isolates were cnl and, overall, they were molecular heterogeneous.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-188
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Microbiology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Carriage
  • fHbp
  • nadA
  • Neisseria meningitidis
  • nhba
  • Whole genome sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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