Resistance to penicillin in meningococcal bacteria: consequences for treatment and epidemiological significance in the UK

Surveillance; PHLS Meningococcal Reference Unit, Manchester.

Scientific version
  • Researchers:
    Dr Andrew Fox, Dr Ed Kaczmarski, Dr Mary Ramsay
  • Start Date:
    01 January 1999
  • Category:
  • Location:
    PHLS Meningococcal Reference Unit, Manchester, UK

Penicillin is the main antibiotic for treating meningococcal disease - since 1988 the Chief Medical Officer has regularly reinforced his advice to GPs to treat suspected meningococcal patients with penicillin before emergency admission to hospital. But scientists are worried-will penicillin continue to be such an effective treatment? A few meningococcal bacteria with resistance to this drug have been isolated, and are becoming more common in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. There is an urgent need to determine the significance of this change in susceptibility to penicillin in the UK.

Scientists at the Meningococcal Reference Unit in Manchester will study clinical descriptions of the course of disease in cases with lower susceptibility to penicillin. They will find out whether strains resistant to penicillin cause more severe disease or worse outcome.

The research will also establish straightforward methods for analysing meningococcal specimens to find out whether they carry penA, the penicillin resistance gene. This will allow national surveillance of any changes in the frequency of resistance to penicillin, so that there is time to develop alternative treatment strategies.