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Vaccine Preventability of Meningococcal Clone, Greater Aachen Region, Germany


Emergence of serogroup B meningococci of clonal complex sequence type (ST) 41/44 can cause high levels of disease, as exemplified by a recent epidemic in New Zealand. Multiplication of annual incidence rates (3.1 cases/100,000 population) of meningococcal disease in a defined German region, the city of Aachen and 3 neighboring countries (Greater Aachen) prompted us to investigate and determine the source and nature of this outbreak. Using molecular typing and geographic mapping, we analyzed 1,143 strains belonging to ST41/44 complex, isolated from persons with invasive meningococcal disease over 6 years (2001–2006) from 2 German federal states (total population 26 million) and the Netherlands. A spatially slowly moving clone with multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis type 19, ST42, and antigenic profile B: P1. 7–2, 4: F1–5 was responsible for the outbreak. Bactericidal activity in serum samples from the New Zealand MeNZB vaccination campaign confirmed vaccine preventability. Because this globally distributed epidemic strain spreads slowly, vaccination efforts could possibly eliminate meningococcal disease in this area.

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