Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Cerebrospinal meningitis is a feared disease that can cause the death of a previously healthy individual within hours. Paradoxically, the causative agent, Neisseria meningitidis, is a common inhabitant of the human nasopharynx, and as such, may be considered a normal, commensal organism. Only in a small proportion of colonized people do the bacteria invade the bloodstream, from where they can cross the blood-brain barrier to cause meningitis. Furthermore, most meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria belonging to only a few of the phylogenetic groups among the large number that constitute the population structure of this genetically variable organism. However, the genetic basis for the differences in pathogenic potential remains elusive. By performing whole genome comparisons of a large collection of meningococcal isolates of defined pathogenic potential we brought to light a meningococcal prophage present in disease-causing bacteria. The phage, of the filamentous family, excises from the chromosome and is secreted from the bacteria via the type IV pilin secretin. Therefore, this element, by spreading among the population, may promote the development of new epidemic clones of N. meningitidis that are capable of breaking the normal commensal relationship with humans and causing invasive disease.

Original publication

DOI

10.1084/jem.20050112

Type

Journal article

Journal

J Exp Med

Publication Date

20/06/2005

Volume

201

Pages

1905 - 1913

Keywords

Base Sequence, Computational Biology, DNA Primers, Fimbriae Proteins, Gene Components, Genomic Islands, Genomics, Humans, Inovirus, Linear Models, Meningitis, Meningococcal, Molecular Sequence Data, Neisseria meningitidis, Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis, Prophages