Epidemic meningitis due to Group A Neisseria meningitidis in the African meningitis belt: a persistent problem with an imminent solution

Vaccine. 2009 Jun 24:27 Suppl 2:B13-9. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.04.062. Epub 2009 May 27.


Epidemic meningitis in Africa remains an important and unresolved public health problem. Bacteriologic and epidemiologic data collected over the past 30 years have consistently established the importance of Group A Neisseria meningitidis as the dominant etiologic agent. The meningococcal Group A capsule is the major virulence factor; it is a polysaccharide comprised of a repeating unit of partly O-acetylated alpha-1,6-linked N-acetylmannosamine phosphate. Meningitis epidemics occur annually during the dry season (January to May) and stop with the first rains. Until now, control of these meningitis epidemics has relied on a reactive vaccination strategy with polysaccharide vaccines that is logistically complicated and has not put an end to recurrent epidemics. A meningococcal A conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac) has been developed and tested in Phase II clinical trials in Africa. The vaccine has been shown to be safe and to generate a sustained immunologic response with functional antibody 20 times higher than that seen with polysaccharide vaccine. Widespread use of such a vaccine is likely to generate herd immunity and to put an end to Group A meningococcal epidemics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Meningitis, Meningococcal / epidemiology*
  • Meningitis, Meningococcal / microbiology
  • Meningitis, Meningococcal / prevention & control*
  • Meningococcal Vaccines / immunology
  • Neisseria meningitidis, Serogroup A / immunology
  • Neisseria meningitidis, Serogroup A / isolation & purification*
  • Seasons
  • Vaccines, Conjugate / immunology


  • Meningococcal Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Conjugate