The major cause of meningitis in Africa has changed in recent years, a study published in EBioMedicine and funded by Meningitis Research Foundation has confirmed. A type of bacterial meningitis called MenA (meningococcal group A) has seen huge declines but now meningococcal groups W, X and C have risen as major causes of meningitis in the African region known as the meningitis belt.
The meningitis belt countries of sub-Saharan Africa have been repeatedly devastated by meningitis epidemics since the early 1900’s.
Fortunately, since the introduction of the vaccine MenAfriVac® in 2010, over 300 million 1-29 year olds living in the meningitis belt countries have been vaccinated against MenA and there has been a dramatic decline in cases of MenA. However, meningitis caused by other types of meningococcal bacteria are rising and the disease remains a major public health threat.
In a new study, researchers from the three World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centers for Reference and Research on Meningitis, in collaboration with the national laboratories in Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, and Mali, as well as with the Agence de Médecine Préventive, have provided further evidence about the different meningococcal strains that are now causing disease in sub-Saharan Africa, revealing how these bacteria travel between countries.
Professor Dominique Caugant from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health who led the study said, “We used cutting edge sequencing technology to study the genetic makeup of over 700 samples of meningococcal bacteria collected from patients with meningitis in the meningitis belt from 2011 to 2016.