A random selection of 25 strains isolated during an epidemic caused by serogroup A Neisseria meningitidis in Sudan (1988), 3 preepidemic meningococcal strains (1985), and 26 serogroup A strains isolated from sporadic cases of meningitis in Sweden (1973 to 1987) were assessed for multilocus enzyme genotypes (ETs), DNA restriction enzyme patterns, outer membrane proteins, lipopolysaccharides, pilus formation, and antibiograms. All of the 25 Sudanese epidemic isolates and 22 of the Swedish strains were of the same or closely related ETs (ETs 3, 4, and 5), corresponding to clone III-1, which has been responsible for two pandemic waves in the last three decades. The earlier pandemic involved Scandinavia, and the last one caused an outbreak during the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia (August 1987), spreading to Sudan, Chad, and Ethiopia. The three Sudanese preepidemic isolates (1985) were clone IV-1 (sulfonamide susceptible), which has been resident in the African meningitis belt for the last 25 years. The uniformity of clone III-1 strains (all sulfonamide resistant) from Sudan and Sweden was confirmed by DNA restriction enzyme patterns. ETs 3, 4, and 5 from Sudan and Sweden had 86 to 100% similarity to a Swedish clone III-1 reference strain, whereas ETs 1, 2, 6, and 7 showed 50 to 80% similarity. Class 1 protein for clone III-1 showed serosubtype antigens P1.9 and P1.x, whereas ET6 strains (clone IV-1) had serosubtype P1.7. Lipopolysaccharides were variable in the Sudanese and Swedish strains. Pili were expressed in all clone III-1 isolates from Sudan and Sweden but in none of the clone IV-1 isolates (Sudan, 1985).
The aims of the present study were to document the epidemiology, clinical features and complications of childhood acute bacterial meningitis (ABM) in The Sudan during both an inter-epidemic (endemic) period (1985-1986), and the 1988 serogroup A epidemic; and to examine the phenotypic and genetic similarities and differences of Neisseria meningitidis strains isolated in The Sudan and Sweden. A new enzyme immunoassay test (Pharmacia Meningitis EIA-Test) was evaluated as a potential rapid diagnostic method for the detection of Haemophilus influenzae (HI) type b, Neisseria meningitidis (MC) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (PNC). The test was found to have good sensitivity (0.86) and specificity (0.95) in the inter-epidemic period; and to be adaptable to the field work in The Sudan during the 1988 MC epidemic. During inter-epidemic (endemic) situations in The Sudan, greater than 90% of childhood ABM was caused by one of the three organisms, HI type b, MC and PNC. HI accounted for 57% of the cases. The peak incidence (76%) of HI cases was in infants (less than 12 months) similar to the situation in other African countries. The overall case fatality ratio was 18.6%. Prospective follow-up of survivors for 3-4 years revealed that an additional 43% either died or had permanent neurological complications, the most prevalent and persistent of which was sensorineural hearing loss recorded in 22% of long term survivors. Post-meningitic children were found to have significantly lower intelligence quotients (92.3 +/- 13.9) than their sibling controls (100.7 +/- 10.2, P = 0.029). Features of the large serogroup A sulphonamide resistant MC epidemic (February-August 1988) in Khartoum are described. An estimated annual incidence of 1,679/100,000 was recorded at the peak of the epidemic. The highest attack rate was in young children less than 5 years, as in many other African countries; nevertheless, a high morbidity was observed in adults (31% of the cases greater than or equal to 20 years). The clinical features, mortality (6.3%) and short term sequelae in Sudanese children were generally within the framework described for MC disease elsewhere. Detailed analysis of MC isolates from Sudan and Sweden by characterizing their electrophoretic enzyme types, DNA restriction endonuclease pattern and outer membrane proteins, revealed that serogroup A MC clone III-1 was responsible of The Sudan epidemic in 1988 and has been the dominant serogroup A organism in Sweden since 1973. The Sudanese strains isolated prior to the epidemic (1985) were clone IV-1.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
Sampling of sera from 202 Sudanese and 124 Swedish children 1-14 years of age was conducted at the end of the 1980s presenting an opportunity to compare the seroprevalence of anti-Neisseria meningitidis (MC) serogroup A antibodies in an area immediately before outbreak of an epidemic (Sudan 1988) with a low endemic area (Sweden). An ELISA antibody assay was developed for detection of antibodies against capsular polysaccharide of MC serogroup A and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Serum antibody against MC serogroup A was found significantly more frequently in Sudanese than in Swedish children. This indicates that factors other than herd immunity, as measured by serum antibodies against MC serogroup A polysaccharide, are important for avoidance of an MC serogroup A epidemic. The seroprevalence of Hib antibodies was, in contrast, significantly higher in Swedish than in Sudanese children, especially for 5-9-year-old children. A possible explanation may be the different systems of day-care of children in the two countries.