Neisseria meningitidis, often referred to as meningococcus, is a Gram-negative bacterium that can cause meningitis
and other forms of meningococcal disease such as meningococcemia, life-threatening sepsis. The bacterium is referred to as a coccus because it is round, and more specifically, diplococcus because of its tendency to form pairs. About 10% of adults are carriers of the bacteria in their nasopharynx. As an exclusively human pathogen it is the main cause of bacterial meningitis
in children and young adults, causing developmental impairment and death in about 10% of cases. It causes the only form of bacterial meningitis
known to occur epidemically, mainly in Africa and Asia. It occurs worldwide in both epidemic and endemic form. N. meningitidis is spread through saliva and respiratory secretions during coughing, sneezing, kissing, chewing on toys and even through sharing a source of fresh water. It has also been reported to be transmitted through oral sex and cause urethritis in men. It infects its host cells
by sticking to them with long thin extensions called pili and the surface-exposed proteins Opa and Opc and has several virulence factors.
Relevant Topics in Medical Sciences