The clustering of four cases of meningococcal disease during a 3-month period in a small community with 2233 inhabitants prompted an interventional carrier survey in persons < 19 years old and in family members of the patients. The aims of the survey were to identify the nasopharyngeal carriers and the carriage rate of the outbreak strain, to offer chemoprophylaxis to those carrying the outbreak strain, and to study the discriminatory power of phenotypic methods pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) on carrier isolates during an outbreak. A high percentage of the population in the age group 0–19 years (73.7%) participated in the study. Among the 469 samples collected in this age group, meningococci were grown from 43 (9.2%). The highest carriage rates were in the age group 18–19 years (36.4%). With a provisional definition of the outbreak strain (group B or non-groupable with reduced sulphonamide sensitivity), six carriers were identified. All were treated with a single dose of ofloxacin. Four of these persons (0.76% of all tested) were later shown to have harboured the outbreak strain when analysed by PFGE. Three of them were epidemiologically closely related to one of the index cases. Serogrouping alone is not sufficient for the identification of an epidemic strain of . Complete concordance of type and subtype antigens correctly identified the outbreak strain in this study. PFGE is well suited for the identification of an outbreak strain of non-epidemic strains in tonsillo-pharyngeal specimens.


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