Clinical features and outcome of sporadic serogroup W135 disease Taiwan
© Wang et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2006
Received: 27 September 2005
Accepted: 19 January 2006
Published: 19 January 2006
Few published reports have evaluated the clinical features and outcome of serogroup W135 meningococcal disease. In Taiwan, W135 is the second most prevalent meningococcal disease serogroup.
A nationwide study was conducted to retrospectively analyze epidemiologic data from 115 patients with laboratory confirmed meningococcal disease that occurred from 2001 through 2003.
Serogroup W135 accounted for 26% of all cases and most (76.7%) were older than 20 years. There were no cases of serogroup W135 meningococcal disease associated with Hajj pilgrims, and all cases were sporadic. In 88 patients with complete case records, we compared the presenting symptoms, signs, laboratory data, and outcomes between W135 and non-W135 patients. There were no differences in presenting symptoms except for the higher prevalence of pneumonia found in W135 patients (23.8% vs. 1.5%; OR: 20.6; 95%CI: 2.3–189.0; p = 0.003). The distribution of inflammatory cells in CSF in patients with meningitis was also different between W135 and non-W135 patients. W135 patients had a trend toward more intubations and shock but it did not achieve statistical significance. In multivariate analysis of factors associated with death, three independent factors were found: bacteremia without meningitis, altered mental status, and petechiae or purpura on admission.
Sporadic serogroup W135 meningococcal disease is an important component of the meningococcal disease burden in Taiwan, but it is not directly associated with Hajj pilgrims. Compared with patients infected by other serogroups of meningococci, patients with serogroup W135 were older and more likely to have extrameningeal involvement such as pneumonia.
Previous surveys of meningococcal disease in the United States and elsewhere found serogroup W135 was rare . An outbreak of serogroup W135 meningococcal infection in Saudi Arabia following the 2000 Hajj was reported, and then spread to several countries around the world [2–4]. Significantly higher carriage rate of N. meningitidis serogroup W135 in pilgrims returning from the Hajj [5, 6] and continuing diversification of the serogroup after its emergence in 2000 has been found [7, 8]. In Taiwan, only about 2% (50,000) of the population are Muslims. In the period from 2001 through 2003, about 20 to 40 pilgrims per year went from Taiwan to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj (data from Chinese Muslim Association, Taiwan). Little is known about the clinical features and outcome of serogroup W135 disease [9–11], but there are some reports of extrameningeal complications [11–13].
The incidence of meningococcal disease in Taiwan was below 0.001 from 1980 to 1987, and re-emerged in 2000 with a rate of 0.07/105 population. In 2001 there was a further increase in incidence (0.19/105) . Serogroup B was the most common and W135 was secondmost predominant, which is different from other country [1, 14]. To determine the clinical characteristics and outcome of patients with serogroup W135 and non-W135 meningococcal disease in Taiwan, a nationwide study was conducted from January 1, 2001, through December 31, 2003. The relationship between N. meningitidis serogroups with respect to patient characteristics, clinical manifestations, and outcome was assessed. The factors associated with mortality in meningococcal disease were also investigated.
Case reporting and microbiology laboratory procedures
In the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System in Taiwan, patients with sudden onset of fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, petechial rash with pink macules, accompanied by delirium, coma or shock; or Gram-negative diplococci were found in smear of cerebrospinal fluid by Gram-stain should be reported to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Taiwan as suspected cases of invasive meningococcal disease within 24 hours. In addition to the routine examination and culture in individual hospital, blood and/or cerebrospinal fluid of the suspect N. meningitidis would be sent to the bacteriology laboratory of Taiwan CDC at room temperature as soon as possible for bacteria culture and serogrouping. If N. meningitidis is isolated and the patient had compatible clinical symptoms and signs, the patient would be justified as a confirmed case of invasive meningococcal disease. If N. meningitidis is isolated in bacteriology laboratory of individual hospital, the isolate would be sent to Taiwan CDC laboratory. The identification of all isolates were reconfirmed at Taiwan CDC using conventional biochemical methods . Serogrouping using the agglutination test (Murex Biotech Ltd, Dartford, UK) and standard grouping sera for capsular types A, B, C, X, Y, Z, and W-135 was also performed at Taiwan CDC.
Within 48 hours since suspected case reported, the staffs at local Health Bureau will conduct the case investigation, to understand the detail travel history and identify every single close contact during the 2 weeks before disease onset. Patients or their family who have traveled abroad 3 months before onset were recorded. If any close contact develops fever, the person would be send to hospital immediately for examination, sampling and treatment. The close contacts with no related symptoms would receive prophylaxis as soon as possible.
Clinical information collection
From January 2001 through December 2003, case-record forms designed for collection of detailed clinical data were send to and filled out by those physicians who reported the laboratory-confirmed cases. The information provided by the case-record forms included patients' history, symptoms and signs on admission, laboratory findings on admission, clinical course, treatment, outcome, and neurological findings at discharge. Patients were categorized as having either meningitis or pure bacteremia (the latter was defined as pure bacteremia if patients had neither meningitis nor abnormal cerebrospinal fluid analysis). Bacteremia without sepsis was defined as growth of N. meningitidis on blood agar in patients with fever but no signs of meningococcemia or meningitis . Pneumonia was defined if consolidation or pleural effusion was seen on chest radiograph. Arthritis was present if the classic inflammatory signs of redness, swelling, heat and pain in the joint(s) were found.
The association of the following parameters (serogroup, age, sex, clinical category, initial symptoms and signs, and hemogram value) with mortality was analyzed. Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS software, version 10.0 (SPSS, Inc., Chicago, Ill, USA). The Chi-square test was used to assess the statistical significance of difference in the epidemiologic data, clinical manifestations, and outcome between serogroup W135 and non-W135 cases. Logistic regression was used to find the factors associated with attributable death.
Patient characteristics and risk factors
Epidemiological data of patients with serogroup W135 and Non-W135 meningococcal disease.
W135 N = 30
Non-W135 N = 85
Total N = 115
College & high school students
With travel abroad history a
Compared with patients infected by serogroup B meningococci, patients with non-serogroup B were older (median age: non-serogroup B vs. serogroup B: 20 vs. 8 years old). Non-serogroup B patients occurred more in the age group "10–19" and "20–54" years (P < 0.05), while serogroup B infections occurred more commonly in the age group younger than 10 years (52.7% vs. 23.3%, P = 0.002). There were more military personnel in non-serogroup B than serogroup B (20.0% vs. 7.3%, P = 0.049).
Comparison clinical features between patients with serogroup W135 and non-W135
Clinical manifestations, laboratory data, and outcome of 88 meningococcal disease patients with completed case records: serogroup W135 versus non-W135.
W135 (n = 21)
Non-W135 (n = 67)
Total (n = 88)
No underlying disease
Underlying disease of cancer
Bacteremia without meningitis
Bacteremia without sepsis
Presentation ≤1 day after symptom onset
Presentation days (mean ± SD)
1.9 ± 2.4
1.7 ± 3.0
1.8 ± 2.9
Myalgia and/or arthragia
Nausea and/or vomiting
Petechia and/or purpura
Altered mental status
WBC count < 10,000/mm3
Platelet < 100,000/mm3
WBC count >1000/mm3
WBC count 100–1000/mm3
WBC count <100/mm3
Protein > 300 mg/dl
Glucose < 10 mg/dl
Days from presentation to antibiotics use (mean ± SD)
0.7 ± 1.0
2.2 ± 5.0
1.8 ± 4.4
Death within 48 hours
In outcome analysis, W135 patients tended to have more intubations (42.9% vs. 23.9; OR: 2.4; 95%CI: 0.9–6.7; p = 0.09) and shock (52.4% vs. 31.3%; OR: 2.4; 95%CI: 0.9–6.5; p = 0.08), but the difference did not reach statistical significance.
Significant factors associated with attributable death by univariate and multivariate analysis.
Univariate OR (95% CI)
Multivariate* OR (95% CI)
Age > 16
Any underlying disease
Hypothermia < 36°C
Nausea or vomiting
Myalgia or arthragia
Altered mental status
Purpura or petechia
WBC < 10,000/mm3
Platelet < 100,000/mm3
Systolic BP < 85 mmHg
This nationwide study of meningococcal disease in Taiwan focused on the sporadic occurrence of serogroup W135 meningococcal disease. W135 serogroup accounted for 26% of all meningococcal disease in Taiwan, and its prevalence is second only to that of serogroup B. During the 1990s, N. meningitidis W135 represented less than 5% of all reported N. meningitidis in the UK, France, and the United States (1, 17–18). Taiwan is not a Muslim country and less than 40 persons per year are Hajj pilgrims from Taiwan. No case had contact with Hajj pilgrims in this series and analysis of the geographic distribution and timing of our serogroup W135 meningococcal disease cases did not suggest an epidemiologic link to Hajj pilgrims. The nasopharyngeal carrier rate of N. meningitidis was 2.3% in a nationwide surveillance from military recruits in Taiwan in 2001, and serogroup W135 constituted 15.2% [Taiwan CDC, unpublished data].
From pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and multilocus sequence typing genotyping in Taiwan CDC, serogroup B isolates in Taiwan were derived from several distinct lineages, but isolates of serogroup A, serogroups W135 and C, and serogroup Y, respectively, belonged to ST-7, ST-11, and ST-23 clones . All our serogroup W135 meningococcal strains in Taiwan available for analysis in 2001–2002 belonged to ST-11/ electrophoretic type-37 complex, and they were apparently introduced before the Hajj pilgrimage outbreak . And multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis with better genotyping discrimination power also showed that there were no a major epidemic N. meningitidis strain circulating in the country [Chiou CS, et el, unpublished data]. Our basic epidemiological data and the results of genotyping method by Chiou CS et al do not suggest that the 2000-Hajj epidemic directly lead to the sporadic cases of serogroup W135 meningococcal disease in Taiwan.
Few published papers discuss the clinical characteristics of serogroup W135 meningococcal disease, and all focus on cases caused by the epidemic strain [3, 4]. But these studies [3, 4] did not report finding more W135 than non-W135 patients who were older and in the 20–54 year-old age group. In case series from Europe and Saudi Arabia, patients 1–10 years-old accounted for nearly 50% of all cases of serogroup W135 meningococcal disease [4, 20]. The cause of shift in the age distribution for W135 cases in our series was not clear. Meningococcal disease due to uncommon serogroups such as X, Y, Z, W135, has been reported associated with complement deficiency . In our meningococcal patients older than 16 years old with complement 50 level and C3a level available (31/62,50%), serogroup W135 did not have more patients with low complement 50 and C3a level than serogroup B (28.6%; 4/14 vs. 47.1%; 8/17)(Lin CY, unpublished data). In adult patients elder than 16 years old, only 4 patients (28.6%) of serogroup W135 meningococcal disease had an underlying immunocompromising disease (cancer, steroid use, and organ failure etc) and were not different from non-W135 group. Our study showed that 83.3% of serogroup W135 disease and 76.7% of non-serogroup B occurred in patients older than 10 years – an age group in which the disease is potentially preventable by use of the current quadrivalent vaccine. In Taiwan, the current policy is to recommend meningococcal vaccination for people travelling to an endemic country, or for use in controlling outbreaks in crowded settings such as a school or military establishment.
If continued bacteriologic surveillance showed the rapid clonal spread of non-serogroup B of meningococcus especially in the special population such as college students or military personnel, the policy of public meningococcal vaccination should be reevaluated.
In the Saudi Arabian study by Lingappa JR et al, comparing patients with the epidemic strain of serogroup W135 and those with serogroup A , the former were less likely to have meningitis than the latter . Similarly, we found a statistically nonsignificant trend toward more pure bacteremia without meningitis among patients with sporadic W135 disease, compared to patients with non-W135 disease. Our finding that more pneumonia and less CSF inflammatory cells in patients with W135 meningitis than in patients with non-W135 meningitis was similar to findings in France that the predominant extrameningeal diseases (such as pneumonia, septic meningococcal arthritis and pericarditis) occurred predominantly in patients with W135 disease [10–13]. However, the use of a different definition, and failure to use PCR as diagnostic tool may have resulted in less association between arthritis and W135 in our series.
Similar to previous reports [22–24], we found that pure bacteremia without meningitis, altered mental status, peripheral white cell counts less than 10,000/mm3, thrombocytopenia < 100,000/mm3, initial systolic blood pressure < 85 mmHg, and purpura or petechiae on admission were factors associated with mortality in patients with meningococcal disease. There are several scoring systems developed for assessing the prognosis and mortality of meningococcal disease [22–25], Glasgow Meningococcal Septicemia Prognostic Score is a good example of a clinical prediction tool for assessing the mortality of meningococcal disease [22, 23]. Most of those scoring systems are based on easily available clinical and laboratory parameters such as differences in age distribution, period between onset of disease and admission, absence of meningitis, presence of widespread skin lesions, hypotension, metabolic acidosis, normal C-reactive protein level, absence of leukocytosis, presence of thrombocytopenia, and hypofibrinogenemia [22–25]. However, some of the above factors (e.g., C-reactive protein and fibrinogen levels) were not routinely checked in our cases.
Previous studies that included only a low percentage of patients with serogroup W135 meningococcal disease could not comment on the influence of W135 on outcome [23–25]. Our present series, with a higher percentage of patients with serogroup W135 disease, showed no difference in case-fatality rates between patients with W135 and patients with non-W135. Lingappa JR et al  also found no difference in the case fatality rate between patients with serogroup W135 and serogroup A in Saudi Arabia, but more patients with W135 needed intensive care. There was a statistically insignificant trend toward more shock and intubation in patients with W135 compared with those with non-W135 in our series.
In conclusion, sporadic W135 infections accounted for a substantial proportion of meningococcal disease in Taiwan from 2001 through 2003 and do not appear to be Hajj-related. More patients age 20–54 years, and not younger, developed the disease in Taiwan. The clinical features of W135 and non-W135 meningococcal disease were similar except that patients with W135 disease were more likely to have extrameningeal involvement such as pneumonia. Independent predictors of mortality included bacteremia without meningitis, altered mental status, and petechiae or purpura on admission.
The authors appreciate all those physicians providing the clinical data of the cases for analysis in this study. This study was financially supported by Taiwan CDC (grant no. DOH93-DC-2010).
- Rosenstein NE, Perkins BA, Stephens DS, Lefkowitz L, Cartter ML, Danila R, Cieslak P, Shutt KA, Popovic T, Schuchat A, Harrison LH, Reingold AL: The changing epidemiology of meningococcal disease in the United States, 1992–1996. J Infect Dis. 1999, 180: 1894-901. 10.1086/315158.View ArticlePubMed
- Taha MK, Achtman M, Alonso JM, Greenwood B, Ramsay M, Fox A, Gray S, Kaczmarski E: Serogroup W135 meningococcal disease in Hajj pilgrims. Lancet. 2000, 356: 2159-10.1016/S0140-6736(00)03502-9.View ArticlePubMed
- Lingappa JR, Al-Rabeah AM, Hajjeh R, Mustafa T, Fatani A, Al-Bassam T, Badukhan A, Turkistani A, Makki S, Al-Hamdan N, Al-Jeffri M, Al Mazrou Y, Perkins BA, Popovic T, Mayer LW, Rosenstein NE: Serogroup W-135 meningococcal disease during the Hajj, 2000. Emerg Infect Dis. 2003, 9: 665-71.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMed
- Aguilera JF, Perrocheau A, Meffre C, Hahne S, W135 Working Group: Outbreak of serogroup W135 meningococcal disease after the Hajj pilgrimage, Europe, 2000. Emerg Infect Dis. 2002, 8: 761-7.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMed
- Dull PM, Abdelwahab J, Sacchi CT, Becker M, Noble CA, Barnett GA, Kaiser RM, Mayer LW, Whitney AM, Schmink S, Ajello GW, Dolan-Livengood J, Stephens DS, Cetron MS, Popovic T, Rosenstein NE: Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W-135 carriage among US travelers to the 2001 Hajj. J Infect Dis. 2005, 191: 33-9. 10.1086/425927.View ArticlePubMed
- Wilder-Smith A, Goh KT, Barkham T, Paton NI: Hajj-associated outbreak strain of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W135: estimates of the attack rate in a defined population and the risk of invasive disease developing in carriers. Clin Infect Dis. 2003, 36: 679-83. 10.1086/367858.View ArticlePubMed
- Taha MK, Giorgini D, Ducos-Galand M, Alonso JM: Continuing diversification of Neisseria meningitidis W135 as a primary cause of meningococcal disease after emergence of the serogroup in 2000. J Clin Microbiol. 2004, 42: 4158-63. 10.1128/JCM.42.9.4158-4163.2004.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMed
- Mayer LW, Reeves MW, Al-Hamdan N, Sacchi CT, Taha MK, Ajello GW, Schmink SE, Noble CA, Tondella ML, Whitney AM, Al-Mazrou Y, Al-Jefri M, Mishkhis A, Sabban S, Caugant DA, Lingappa J, Rosenstein NE, Popovic T: Outbreak of W135 meningococcal disease in 2000: not emergence of a new W135 strain but clonal expansion within the electophoretic type-37 complex. J Infect Dis. 2002, 185: 1596-605. 10.1086/340414.View ArticlePubMed
- Brandstetter RD, Blair RJ, Roberts RB: Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W 135 disease in adults. JAMA. 1981, 246: 2060-1. 10.1001/jama.246.18.2060.View ArticlePubMed
- Matsika-Claquin MD, Perrocheau A, Taha MK, Levy-Bruhl D, Renault P, Alonso JM, Desenclos JC: Meningococcal W135 infection epidemics associated with pilgrimage to Mecca in 2000. Presse Med. 2001, 30: 1529-34.PubMed
- Faye A, Mariani-Kurkdjian P, Taha MK, Angoulvant F, Antonios M, Aubertin G, Soussan V, Bingen E, Bourrillon A: Clinical features and outcome of pediatric Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W135 infection: a report of 5 cases. Clin Infect Dis. 2004, 38: 1635-7. 10.1086/421022.View ArticlePubMed
- Vienne P, Ducos-Galand M, Guiyoule A, Pires R, Giorgini D, Taha MK, Alonso JM: The role of particular strains of Neisseria meningitidis in meningococcal arthritis, pericarditis, and pneumonia. Clin Infect Dis. 2003, 37: 1639-42. 10.1086/379719.View ArticlePubMed
- Apicella M: Extrameningeal complications of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W135 infection. Clin Infect Dis. 2004, 38: 1638-9. 10.1086/421030.View ArticlePubMed
- Hsueh PR, Teng LJ, Lin TY, Chen KT, Hsu HM, Twu SJ, Ho SW, Luh KT: Re-emergence of meningococcal disease in Taiwan: circulation of domestic clones of Neisseria meningitidis in the 2001 outbreak. Epidemiol Infect. 2004, 132: 637-45. 10.1017/S0950268804002316.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMed
- Knapp JS, Rice RJ: . Neisseria and Branhamella. Manual of Clinical Microbiology. Edited by: Murray PR, Baron EJ, Pfaller MA, Tenover FC, Yolken RH. 1995, American Society for Microbiology, Washington D. C, ASM, 6
- Racoosin JA, Whitney CG, Conover CS, Diaz PS: Serogroup Y meningococcal disease in Chicago, 1991–1997. JAMA. 1998, 280: 2094-8. 10.1001/jama.280.24.2094.View ArticlePubMed
- Ramsay M, Kaczmarski E, Rush M, Mallard R, Farrington P, White J: Changing patterns of case ascertainment and trends in meningococcal disease in England and Wales. Commun Dis Rep CDR Rev. 1997, 7: R49-54.PubMed
- Matsika-Claquin MD, Perrocheau A, Taha MK, Levy-Bruhl D, Alonso JM, Desenclos JC: Meningococcal W135 infection epidemics associated with pilgrimage to Mecca in 2000. Presse Med. 2001, 30: 1529-34. (In French)PubMed
- Chiou CS, Liao JC, Liao TL, Li CC, Chou CY, Chang HL, Yao SM, Lee YS: Molecular epidemiology and emergence of worldwide epidemic clones of Neisseria meningitidis in Taiwan. BMC Infect Dis. 2006, 6: 25-acceptPubMed CentralView ArticlePubMed
- Al-Mazrou YY, Al-Jeffri MH, Abdalla MN, Elgizouli SA, Mishskas AA: Changes in epidemiological pattern of meningococcal disease in Saudi Arabia. Does it constitute a new challenge for prevention and control?. Saudi Med J. 2004, 25: 1410-3.PubMed
- Fijen CA, Kuijper EJ, Hannema AJ, Sjoholm AG, van Putten JP: Complement deficiencies in patients over ten years old with meningococcal disease dueto uncommon serogroups. Lancet. 1989, 2: 585-8. 10.1016/S0140-6736(89)90712-5.View ArticlePubMed
- Castellanos-Ortega A, Delgado-Rodriguez M: Comparison of the performance of two general and three specific scoring systems for meningococcal septic shock in children. Crit Care Med. 2000, 28: 2967-73. 10.1097/00003246-200008000-00047.View ArticlePubMed
- Thomson AP, Sills JA, Hart CA: Validation of the Glasgow Meningococcal Septicemia Prognostic Score: a 10-year retrospective survey. Crit Care Med. 1991, 19: 26-30.View ArticlePubMed
- Barquet N, Domingo P, Cayla JA, Gonzalez J, Rodrigo C, Fernandez-Viladrich P, Moraga-Llop FA, Marco F, Vazquez J, Saez-Nieto JA, Casal J, Canela J, Foz M: Prognostic factors in meningococcal disease. Development of a bedside predictive model and scoring system. Barcelona Meningococcal Disease Surveillance Group. JAMA. 1997, 278: 491-6. 10.1001/jama.278.6.491.View ArticlePubMed
- van Deuren M, Brandtzaeg P, van der Meer JW: Update on meningococcal disease with emphasis on pathogenesis and clinical management. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2000, 13: 144-66.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMed
- The pre-publication history for this paper can be accessed here:http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2334/6/7/prepub
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.