Epidemiology and genetic diversity of invasive Neisseria meningitidis strains circulating in Portugal from 2003 to 2020

Célia Bettencourt, Alexandra Nunes, Paulo Nogueira, Sílvia Duarte, Catarina Silva, João Paulo Gomes, Maria João Simões

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Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) continues to be a public health problem due to its epidemic potential, affecting mostly children. We aimed to present a detailed description of the epidemiology of IMD in Portugal, including insights into the genetic diversity of Neisseria meningitidis strains. Epidemiological analysis included data from the Portuguese National Reference Laboratory of Neisseria meningitidis during 2003 to 2020. Since 2012, N. meningitidis isolates have also been assessed for their susceptibility to antibiotics and were characterized by whole genome sequencing. During 2003–2020, 1392 confirmed cases of IMD were analyzed. A decrease in the annual incidence rate was observed, ranging from 1.99 (2003) to 0.39 (2020), with an average case fatality rate of 7.1%. Serogroup B was the most frequent (69.7%), followed by serogroups C (9.7%), Y (5.7%), and W (2.6%). Genomic characterization of 329 isolates identified 20 clonal complexes (cc), with the most prevalent belonging to serogroup B cc41/44 (26.3%) and cc213 (16.3%). Isolates belonging to cc11 were predominantly from serogroups W (77.3%) and C (76.5%), whereas cc23 was dominant from serogroup Y (65.7%). Over the past 4 years (2017–2020), we observed an increasing trend of cases assigned to cc213, cc32, and cc11. Regarding antimicrobial susceptibility, all isolates were susceptible to ceftriaxone and 61.8% were penicillin-nonsusceptible, whereas 1.4% and 1.0% were resistant to ciprofloxacin and rifampicin. This is the first detailed study on the epidemiology and genomics of invasive N. meningitidis infections in Portugal, providing relevant data to public health policy makers for a more effective control of this disease.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Microbiology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Epidemiology
  • Neisseria meningitidis
  • Portugal
  • Surveillance
  • Whole genome sequencing


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