Mechanisms of avoidance of host immunity by Neisseria meningitidis and its effect on vaccine development.
Lo H., Tang CM., Exley RM.
Neisseria meningitidis remains an important cause of severe sepsis and meningitis worldwide. The bacterium is only found in human hosts, and so must continually coexist with the immune system. Consequently, N meningitidis uses multiple mechanisms to avoid being killed by antimicrobial proteins, phagocytes, and, crucially, the complement system. Much remains to be learnt about the strategies N meningitidis employs to evade aspects of immune killing, including mimicry of host molecules by bacterial structures such as capsule and lipopolysaccharide, which poses substantial problems for vaccine design. To date, available vaccines only protect individuals against subsets of meningococcal strains. However, two promising vaccines are currently being assessed in clinical trials and appear to offer good prospects for an effective means of protecting individuals against endemic serogroup B disease, which has proven to be a major challenge in vaccine research.