Background: In the United Kingdom, rising levels of disease due to Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W clonal complex (cc) sequence type (ST) 11 (MenW:cc11) strains led to introduction of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) for teenagers. We investigated the impact of immunization on carriage of meningococci targeted by the vaccine, using whole-genome sequencing of isolates recovered from a cohort of vaccinated university students.
Methods: Strain designation data were extracted from whole-genome sequencing data. Genomes from carried and invasive MenW:cc11 strains were compared using a gene-by-gene approach. Serogrouping identified isolates expressing capsule antigens targeted by the vaccine.
Results: Isolates with a W: P1.5,2: F1-1: ST-11 (cc11) designation and belonging to the emerging 2013-strain of the South American-United Kingdom MenW:cc11 sublineage were responsible for an increase in carried group W strains. A multifocal expansion was evident, with close transmission networks extending beyond individual dormitories. Carried group Y isolates were predominantly from cc23 but showed significant heterogeneity, and individual strain designations were only sporadically recovered. No shifts toward acapsulate phenotypes were detected in targeted meningococcal populations.
Conclusions: In a setting with high levels of MenACWY use, expansion of capsule-expressing isolates from the 2013-strain of MenW:cc11 but not MenY:cc23 isolates is indicative of differential susceptibilities to vaccine-induced immunity.
Keywords: Neisseria; carriage; epidemiology; genome sequencing; meningitidis; serogroup W; serogroup Y; vaccine; whole.
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