Neisseria meningitidis, the cause of meningococcal disease, has been the subject of sophisticated molecular epidemiological investigation as a consequence of the significant public health threat posed by this organism. The use of multilocus sequence typing and whole genome sequencing classifies the organism into clonal complexes. Extensive phenotypic, genotypic and epidemiological information is available on the PubMLST website. The human nasopharynx is the sole ecological niche of this species, and carrier isolates show extensive genetic diversity as compared with hyperinvasive lineages. Horizontal gene exchange and recombinant events within the meningococcal genome during residence in the human nasopharynx result in antigenic diversity even within clonal complexes, so that individual clones may express, for example, more than one capsular polysaccharide (serogroup). Successful clones are capable of wide global dissemination, and may be associated with explosive epidemics of invasive disease.
Keywords: Clonal complexes; Neisseria meningitidis; molecular epidemiology; serogroup; vaccine.
© 2014 The Author Clinical Microbiology and Infection © 2014 European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.