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Bacteriocins (meningocins) in Norwegian isolates of Neisseria meningitidis: possible role in the course of a meningococcal epidemic

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Allunans J, Kristiansen KI, Assalkhou R, Bjørås M. Bacteriocins (meningocins) in Norwegian isolates of Neisseria meningitidis: possible role in the course of a meningococcal epidemic. APMIS 2008;116:333–44.

In the Neisseria meningitidis strain MC58 (serogroup B; ET-5 complex) genome three putative islands of horizontally transferred DNA (IHTs) have been identified. IHT-A2 codes for eight hypothetical proteins and two disrupted open reading frames with similarity to a secretion protein (NMB0097) and an ABC transporter (NMB0098). The strains MC58 and 44/76 (shown here) are meningocin resistant/weakly sensitive. None of these strains are meningocin producers. However, NMB0097 and NMB0098 homologues with open reading frames are found in meningocin producers (N. meningitidis P241 (serogroup A; systemic isolate) and BT878 (serogroup B; carrier isolate), and also in strain FAM18 (serogroup C; ET-37 complex). Knocking out either of the two genes in the strain BT878 yielded mutants that did not secrete meningocin. A similarly disrupted tolC mutant in strain BT878 still released meningocin. Among systemic meningococcal isolates prior to and at the onset (mid-1973 to the end of 1974) of the epidemic peaking in 1975 in North Norway, 12 of 30 (40%) isolates of serogroup A were meningocin producers. However, the rate for serogroup B was 1 of 45 (2.2%). Serogroup B meningocin-resistant/weakly sensitive non-producers dominated in the region from mid-1975 and spread to the rest of the country from then on. No producers were found in selected pharyngeal isolates from healthy carriers collected in Svalbard in the early spring of 1975. Our results suggest that meningocinogeny has played a part in the change from serogroup A to serogroup B among isolates in North Norway during the first half of 1975.
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Keywords: Neisseria meningitidis; meningocin production/susceptibility; meningocin secretion; serogroup B epidemic

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Medical Microbiology, Department of Molecular Biology and Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, Rikshospitalet Medical Centre, Oslo, Norway

Publication date: May 1, 2008

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