Genomic Surveillance of Invasive Meningococcal Disease During a National MenW Outbreak in Australia, 2017-2018

Open Forum Infect Dis. 2024 May 2;11(6):ofae249. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofae249. eCollection 2024 Jun.


Background: In Australia, invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) incidence rapidly increased between 2014 and 2017 due to rising serogroup W (MenW) and MenY infections. We aimed to better understand the genetic diversity of IMD during 2017 and 2018 using whole genome sequencing data.

Methods: Whole genome sequencing data from 440 Australian IMD isolates collected during 2017 and 2018 and 1737 international MenW:CC11 isolates collected in Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, and South America between 1974 and 2020 were used in phylogenetic analyses; genetic relatedness was determined from single-nucleotide polymorphisms.

Results: Australian isolates were as follows: 181 MenW (41%), 144 MenB (33%), 88 MenY (20%), 16 MenC (4%), 1 MenW/Y (0.2%), and 10 nongenogroupable (2%). Eighteen clonal complexes (CCs) were identified, and 3 (CC11, CC23, CC41/44) accounted for 78% of isolates (343/440). These CCs were associated with specific serogroups: CC11 (n = 199) predominated among MenW (n = 181) and MenC (n = 15), CC23 (n = 80) among MenY (n = 78), and CC41/44 (n = 64) among MenB (n = 64). MenB isolates were highly diverse, MenY were intermediately diverse, and MenW and MenC isolates demonstrated the least genetic diversity. Thirty serogroup and CC-specific genomic clusters were identified. International CC11 comparison revealed diversification of MenW in Australia.

Conclusions: Whole genome sequencing comprehensively characterized Australian IMD isolates, indexed their genetic variability, provided increased within-CC resolution, and elucidated the evolution of CC11 in Australia.

Keywords: Neisseria meningitidis; genomic epidemiology; meningococcal disease; pathogen genomics; public health.