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Authors: Retchless, Adam C and Hu, Fang and Ouédraogo, Abdoul-Salam and Diarra, Seydou and Knipe, Kristen and Sheth, Mili and Rowe, Lori A and Sangaré, Lassana and Ky Ba, Absetou and Ouangraoua, Soumeya and Batra, Dhwani and Novak, Ryan T and Ouédraogo Traoré, Rasmata and Wang, Xin

Epidemics of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) caused by meningococcal serogroup A have been eliminated from the sub-Saharan African so-called "meningitis belt" by the meningococcal A conjugate vaccine (MACV), and yet, other serogroups continue to cause epidemics. Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W remains a major cause of disease in the region, with most isolates belonging to clonal complex 11 (CC11). Here, the genetic variation within and between epidemic-associated strains was assessed by sequencing the genomes of 92 N. meningitidis serogroup W isolates collected between 1994 and 2012 from both sporadic and epidemic IMD cases, 85 being from selected meningitis belt countries. The sequenced isolates belonged to either CC175 (n = 9) or CC11 (n = 83). The CC11 N. meningitidis serogroup W isolates belonged to a single lineage comprising four major phylogenetic subclades. Separate CC11 N. meningitidis serogroup W subclades were associated with the 2002 and 2012 Burkina Faso epidemics. The subclade associated with the 2012 epidemic included isolates found in Burkina Faso and Mali during 2011 and 2012, which descended from a strain very similar to the Hajj (Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca)-related Saudi Arabian outbreak strain from 2000. The phylogeny of isolates from 2012 reflected their geographic origin within Burkina Faso, with isolates from the Malian border region being closely related to the isolates from Mali. Evidence of ongoing evolution, international transmission, and strain replacement stresses the importance of maintaining N. meningitidis surveillance in Africa following the MACV implementation. IMPORTANCE Meningococcal disease (meningitis and bloodstream infections) threatens millions of people across the meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa. A vaccine introduced in 2010 protects against Africa's then-most common cause of meningococcal disease, N. meningitidis serogroup A. However, other serogroups continue to cause epidemics in the region-including serogroup W. The rapid identification of strains that have been associated with prior outbreaks can improve the assessment of outbreak risk and enable timely preparation of public health responses, including vaccination. Phylogenetic analysis of newly sequenced serogroup W strains isolated from 1994 to 2012 identified two groups of strains linked to large epidemics in Burkina Faso, one being descended from a strain that caused an outbreak during the Hajj pilgrimage in 2000. We find that applying whole-genome sequencing to meningococcal disease surveillance collections improves the discrimination among strains, even within a single nation-wide epidemic, which can be used to better understand pathogen spread.

Journal: mSphere
DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00201-16
Year: 2016

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