is a fascinating organism that is capable of causing severe, and sometimes fulminating, infections in man, but only in a small proportion of people who acquire it. In most people the meningococcus colonises the nasopharynx, they carry it for a few weeks or months, and then they eliminate it without having suffered any ill effects; whereas in a small minority, an invasive infection develops that can kill them within hours. In most temperate countries meningococcal infections are sporadic, with occasional clusters of cases. In sub-Saharan West Africa however, true epidemics, with higher attack rates amongst children, occur every few years. During the last 2-3 years (1984-87) the number of cases of meningococcal infection in Britain and Europe has increased, and this has heightened interest in research into the epidemiology, pathogenesis and immunology of meningococcal infection and has stimulated comparisons between situations in Europe and in Africa. The papers presented in this review are based on those given in a Symposium and in the associated free-paper and poster sessions at the meeting of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland in July, 1987.


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