Family Members And Kissing Contacts At Greater Risk Of Meningitis

September 04, 1998

(Which contacts of patients with meningococcal disease carry the pathogenic strain of Neisseria meningitidis? A population based study)

Family members and kissing contacts of patients with meningococcal disease (a form of meningitis) have a marked increased risk of carrying the disease-causing organism and this justifies using chemoprophylaxis (antibiotics to prevent the disease developing). But a study from Norway in this week's BMJ does not support the use of chemoprophylaxis for less close contacts of the sick person.

Professor Bjorn-Erik Kristiansen from the University of Tromso and colleagues studied the prevalence of virulent bacteria strains in 1535 primary contacts of 48 patients with meningococcal disease in Norway. They found that family members and kissing contacts have a 12.4% risk of carrying the organism compared to much lower levels of under 2% in less close contacts. The prevalence in the general population is 0.7% where there is no disease outbreak.

To prevent the spread of meningococal infection, many countries give antibiotics to "close contacts" to eradicate the disease causing strain of bacteria. This means chemoprophylaxis is often given to more contacts than is needed, say the authors. They conclude that the benefits of giving chermoprophylaxis to less close contacts than family members and kissing contacts may be marginal.

Contact:

Prof. Bjorn-Erik Kristiansen, Dept. Medical Microbiology, University of Tromso, Norway
-end-


BMJ

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