Article Text

other Versions

Meningococcal disease: has the battle been won?
  1. Beverley C Millar1,
  2. P J A Moore2 and
  3. J E Moore1,2
  1. 1Northern Ireland Public Health Laboratory, Department of Bacteriology, Belfast City Hospital, Belfast, UK
  2. 2School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Beverley C Millar, Northern Ireland Public Health Laboratory, Department of Bacteriology, Belfast City Hospital, Belfast BT9 7AD, UK; bcmillar{at}


Meningococcal disease is a worldwide life-threatening infection associated in many cases with debilitating long-term sequelae, both within the military and civilian populations. Military recruits are at a higher risk of acquiring this infection due to numerous factors, such as young recruits in the age group 18–25 years, high carriage rates of meningococci, communal and crowed living quarters and global deployment or training in regions with different meningococcal serogroup epidemiology. Although these increased risk factors among young recruits remain, the increased incidence of disease is now historic. Numerous outbreaks have been reported among military personnel, however although the incidence of the disease continues to decrease, there are still sporadic cases. The non-specific symptoms, sudden onset and rapid progression of the infection results in a limited time frame to both diagnose and successfully treat the patient. Many developments have been made in relation to the microbiological diagnosis of the disease, particularly in the era of molecular diagnostics, which have the potential to diagnose the infection more quickly. Developments in vaccinology, and in particular with relation to biotechnology and reverse vaccinology, have led to the availability of new meningococcal vaccines, further enabling disease prevention. This paper outlines the history of meningococcal disease in relation to the military and highlights the new developments in both diagnostics and vaccination, which have the potential to diagnose, treat and control meningococcal disease in a more efficient manner.

  • meningitis
  • meningococcal
  • vaccine
  • immunisation
  • Military

Statistics from


  • Contributors All authors have been involved in the conception, literature search and design of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.