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Rapid Transmission of a Hyper-Virulent Meningococcal Clone Due to High Effective Contact Numbers and Super Spreaders

Holmes, Jonathan C.; Green, Luke R.; Oldfield, Neil J.; Turner, David P.J.; Bayliss, Christopher D.


Jonathan C. Holmes

Luke R. Green

Clinical Associate Professor

Christopher D. Bayliss



© Copyright © 2020 Holmes, Green, Oldfield, Turner and Bayliss. Rapid transmission, a critical contributory factor in outbreaks of invasive meningococcal disease, requires naïve populations of sufficient size and intermingling. We examined genomic variability and transmission dynamics in a student population subject to an 11-fold increase in carriage of a hypervirulent Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W ST-11 clone. Phylogenetic clusters, mutation and recombination rates were derived by bioinformatic analyses of whole-genome sequencing data. Transmission dynamics were determined by combining observed carriage rates, cluster sizes and distributions with simple SIS models. Between 9 and 15 genetically-distinct clusters were detected and associated with seven residential halls. Clusters had low mutation accumulation rates and infrequent recombination events. Modeling indicated that effective contacts decreased from 10 to 2 per day between the start and mid-point of the university term. Transmission rates fluctuated between 1 and 4% while the R(t) for carriage decreased from an initial rate of 47 to 1. Decreases in transmission values correlated with a rise in vaccine-induced immunity. Observed carriage dynamics could be mimicked by populations containing 20% of super spreaders with 2.3-fold higher effective contact rates. We conclude that spread of this hypervirulent ST-11 meningococcal clone depends on the levels of effective contacts and immunity rather than genomic variability. Additionally, we propose that super-spreaders enhance meningococcal transmission and that a 70% MenACWY immunization level is sufficient to retard, but not fully prevent, meningococcal spread in close-contact populations.


Holmes, J. C., Green, L. R., Oldfield, N. J., Turner, D. P., & Bayliss, C. D. (2020). Rapid Transmission of a Hyper-Virulent Meningococcal Clone Due to High Effective Contact Numbers and Super Spreaders. Frontiers in Genetics, 11,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 11, 2020
Online Publication Date Dec 7, 2020
Publication Date Dec 7, 2020
Deposit Date Dec 7, 2020
Publicly Available Date Dec 7, 2020
Journal Frontiers in Genetics
Electronic ISSN 1664-8021
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Article Number 579411
Keywords Genetics(clinical); Molecular Medicine; Genetics
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