Meningococcal carriage dynamics drive patterns of invasive disease. The distribution of carriage by age has been well described in Europe, but not in the African meningitis belt, a region characterised by frequent epidemics of meningitis. We aimed to estimate the age-specific prevalence of meningococcal carriage by season in the African meningitis belt. We searched PubMed, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library and grey literature for papers reporting carriage of Neisseria meningitidis in defined age groups in the African meningitis belt. We used a mixed-effects logistic regression to model meningococcal carriage prevalence as a function of age, adjusting for season, location and year. Carriage prevalence increased from low prevalence in infants (0.595% in the rainy season, 95% CI 0.482–0.852%) to a broad peak at age 10 (1.94%, 95% CI 1.87–2.47%), then decreased in adolescence. The odds of carriage were significantly increased during the dry season (OR 1.5 95% CI 1.4–1.7) and during outbreaks (OR 6.7 95% CI 1.6–29). Meningococcal carriage in the African meningitis belt peaks at a younger age compared to Europe. This is consistent with contact studies in Africa, which show that children 10–14 years have the highest frequency of contacts. Targeting older children in Africa for conjugate vaccination may be effective in reducing meningococcal transmission.
- Bristol Population Health Science Institute
- Infectious disease epidemiology
- meningococcal disease
- pharyngeal carriage