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Stability of PorA during a meningococcal disease epidemic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

A F Devoy, K H Dyet, D R Martin

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)832-7
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number2
PublishedFeb 2005

King's Authors


Meningococci causing New Zealand's epidemic, which began in 1991, are defined as group B, serosubtype P1.4 (subtype P1.7-2,4), belonging to the ST-41/ST-44 complex, lineage III. Of the 2,358 group B isolates obtained from disease cases from 1991 through 2003, 85.7% (2,021 of 2,358) were determined to be serosubtype P1.4. Of the remaining isolates, 156 (6.6%) were not serosubtypeable (NST). Molecular analysis of the porA gene from these B:NST meningococcal isolates was used to determine the reason. Most NST isolates (156, 88.5%) expressed a PorA that was distinct from P1.7-2,4 PorA. Fifteen isolates expressed variants of P1.7-2,4 PorA, and a further three expressed P1.7-2,4 PorA without any sequence variation. These three isolates expressed P1.7-2,4 PorA at very low levels, as determined by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis, and showed variation in the porA promoter region. Among the 15 meningococcal isolates expressing variants of P1.7-2,4 PorA, 11 different sequence variations were found. Compared with the P1.7-2,4 PorA sequence, the sequences of these variants contained deletions, insertions, or single-nucleotide substitutions in the VR2 region of the protein. Multilocus restriction typing was used to assess the clonal derivations of B:NST case isolates. Meningococcal isolates expressing distinct PorA proteins belonged mostly to clonal types that were unrelated to the epidemic strain, whereas all meningococcal isolates expressing variants of P1.7-2,4 PorA belonged to the ST-41/ST-44 complex, lineage III. These results, together with those obtained serologically, demonstrate that the P1.7-2,4 PorA protein of meningococci responsible for New Zealand's epidemic has remained relatively stable over 13 years and support the use of a strain-specific outer membrane vesicle vaccine to control the epidemic.

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