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Salud Pública de México

Print version ISSN 0036-3634


ALMEIDA-GONZALEZ, Lourdes; FRANCO-PAREDES, Carlos; PEREZ, Luis Fernando  and  SANTOS-PRECIADO, José Ignacio. Meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis: epidemiological, clinical, and preventive perspectives. Salud pública Méx [online]. 2004, vol.46, n.5, pp.438-450. ISSN 0036-3634.

Bacterial meningitis constitutes a significant global public health problem. In particular, Neisseria meningitidis continues to be a public health problem among human populations in both developed and developing countries. Meningococcal infection is present as an endemic and an epidemic disease. Meningococcal disease is manifested not only as meningitis, but also as meningococcemia. The latter is usually fulminant. The global persistence of N. meningitidis is due to the significant number of carriers and the dynamics of transmission and disease. Approximately 500 million people worldwide are carriers of the bacterium in their nasopharynx. Multiple factors have been identified that predispose to the transmissibility of N. meningitidis, including active or passive inhalation tobacco smoking, upper viral respiratory tract infections, drought seasons, and overcrowding. These factors explain the frequent occurrence of outbreaks in military barracks, schools, prisons, and dormitories. Some of the determinants of invasiveness of the bacteria include nasopharyngeal mucosal damage in colonized individuals, virulence of the strains, absence of bactericidal antibodies, and deficiencies of the complement system. During both endemic and epidemic scenarios of meningococcal disease, control measures should include treating the cases with appropriate antimicrobial therapy (penicillin, ceftriaxone, or chloramphenicol); providing chemoprophylactic drugs to contacts (rifampin or ciprofloxacin), and close observation of contacts. Nevertheless, the key to effective control and prevention of meningococcal disease is immunoprophylaxis. Available vaccines include the polysaccharide monovalent, bivalent (serogroups A, C), or tetravalent (A, C, Y, W-135 serogroups) vaccines; conjugate vaccine (serogroup C); and the combined vaccine with outer membrane proteins and polysaccharide (serogroups B, C). Due to a recent increase in case reporting of serogroup C N. meningitidis in Mexico, we have developed a national response strategy that includes availability of vaccines and medications for chemoprophylaxis. This review aims at providing health care workers with updated information regarding the epidemiological, clinical, and preventive aspects of meningococcal disease.

Keywords : Neisseria meningitidis; meningitis; bacterial; meningococcemia; fulminant purpura.

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