Meningococcemia in Adults: A Review of the Literature

Intern Med. 2016;55(6):567-72. doi: 10.2169/internalmedicine.55.3272. Epub 2016 Mar 15.


We mainly refer to the acute setting of meningococcemia. Meningococcemia is an infection caused by Neisseria meningitidis, which has 13 clinically significant serogroups that are distinguishable by the structure of their capsular polysaccharides. N. meningitidis, also called meningococcus, is a Gram-negative, aerobic, diplococcus bacterium. The various consequences of severe meningococcal sepsis include hypotension, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), multiple organ failure, and osteonecrosis due to DIC. The gold standard for the identification of meningococcal infection is the bacteriologic isolation of N. meningitidis from body fluids such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), synovial fluid, and pleural fluid. Blood, CSF, and skin biopsy cultures are used for diagnosis. Meningococcal infection is a medical emergency that requires antibiotic therapy and intensive supportive care. Management of the systemic circulation, respiration, and intracranial pressure is vital for improving the prognosis, which has dramatically improved since the wide availability of antibiotics. This review of the literature provides an overview of current concepts on meningococcemia due to N. meningitidis infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Cephalosporins / administration & dosage
  • Child
  • Chloramphenicol / administration & dosage
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / drug therapy*
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / epidemiology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Meningococcal Infections / drug therapy*
  • Meningococcal Infections / epidemiology
  • Meningococcal Infections / immunology
  • Meningococcal Infections / prevention & control
  • Neisseria meningitidis / isolation & purification*
  • Osteonecrosis / microbiology
  • Penicillin G / administration & dosage
  • Sepsis / drug therapy
  • Sepsis / epidemiology
  • Sepsis / microbiology*
  • Vaccines, Conjugate / administration & dosage*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Cephalosporins
  • Vaccines, Conjugate
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Penicillin G