Meningococcal disease is more common in the Asia-Pacific region than previously reported

28 October 2016

The Global Meningococcal Initiative (GMI) - an international group of expert scientists, doctors and public health officials - has reported today that, whilst incidence of meningococcal disease (MD) in the Asia-Pacific region appears to be low, it is likely to affect many more people in the region than existing data suggests. The GMI has made several recommendations that will reduce the public impact of meningitis in this region.

The GMI’s purpose is to promote the global prevention of MD, and findings from the group’s first Asia-Pacific regional meeting are published today in Vaccine: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X16309380  

According to the report, not all doctors in this region (which incorporates India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines) are aware of meningococcal disease and doctors who do recognise the disease often fail to report it to health authorities, perhaps due to a lack of clear guidelines or inconsistent case definitions.

The GMI has made several recommendations which will help reduce the devastating impact of meningococcal disease in these countries. These include: developing new guidelines to help doctors diagnose the disease; undertaking studies to determine which age groups “carry” the bacteria harmlessly in their noses and throats, thus spreading the infection around the population; improving management of outbreaks by vaccinating vulnerable groups; and promoting awareness of MD among health professionals, public health officials and the general public. 

Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) and Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) partner with the GMI, and Linda Glennie, Head of Research at MRF welcomed the recommendations: “These are sound recommendations and they mirror what MRF calls for. Our partnership with GMI allows us to tackle MD on a global level to protect people everywhere. Meningitis does not respect borders and we’re proud to be working alongside GMI for a world free from meningitis and septicaemia.”   

Although currently MD is under-reported in this region, the expert group did note that serogroup A disease was most prominent in low-income countries, such as India and the Philippines, while Taiwan, Japan and Korea reported disease due to serogroups A, B and W.