The Global Evolution of Meningococcal Epidemiology Following the Introduction of Meningococcal Vaccines

J Adolesc Health. 2016 Aug;59(2 Suppl):S3-S11. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.04.012.


Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) caused by Neisseria meningitidis is associated with high morbidity and mortality. Although IMD incidence is highest in infants, a second peak occurs in adolescents/young adults. The incidence of IMD and the predominant disease-causing meningococcal serogroups vary worldwide. Epidemiologic data have guided the development of meningococcal vaccines to reduce the IMD burden. In Europe, serogroup C IMD has been substantially reduced since the introduction of a serogroup C conjugate vaccine. Serogroup B predominates in Europe, although cases of serogroup Y IMD have been increasing in recent years. In the United States, declines in serogroup C and Y disease have been observed in association with the introduction of quadrivalent (serogroups ACWY) meningococcal conjugate vaccines; serogroup B persists and is now the most common cause of outbreak associated disease. In the African meningitis belt, a conjugate vaccine for serogroup A has been effective in decreasing meningitis associated with that serogroup. Outbreaks of the previously rare serogroup X disease have been reported in this region since 2006. In recent years, outbreaks of serogroup B IMD, for which vaccines have only recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency, have occurred in Europe and the United States. Targeting meningococcal vaccination to adolescents/young adults may reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with IMD and has the potential to impact the larger community through herd benefits.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Immunization; Meningococcal disease; Vaccine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data*
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Meningitis, Meningococcal / epidemiology*
  • Meningococcal Vaccines
  • Neisseria meningitidis / immunology*
  • Vaccines, Conjugate / immunology


  • Meningococcal Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Conjugate