Postmortem diagnosis of meningococcemia by detection of capsular polysaccharides

J Forensic Sci. 1988 Mar;33(2):336-46.


Detection of specific meningococcal capsular polysaccharide (CPS) in postmortem blood permits rapid diagnosis of meningococcemia and differentiation from pneumococcemia and septicemia caused by Haemophilus influenzae Type b. We present studies validating application of latex agglutination assay for CPS on blood samples collected at autopsy, delineate the circumstances when CPS testing is indicated, and illustrate the usefulness of this procedure by several recent cases. Blood samples from victims dying of injury or disease other than infection were examined to determine whether the postmortem interval, bacterial contamination, anticoagulants, or delay in testing would result in false positive assays. Series 1 samples, collected so as to minimize bacterial contamination, were immediately submitted for assay. Series 2 evaluated the effect of adverse conditions of collection, anticoagulation, and prolonged sample storage. Despite extended postmortem intervals of up to 14 days, heavy bacterial contamination, prolonged storage at 4 degrees C, deep hemolysis, and presence of anticoagulants, false positive assays were seldom observed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autopsy / methods*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Latex Fixation Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neisseria meningitidis / isolation & purification*
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / blood*
  • Sepsis / microbiology*


  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial