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Research claims MSM, especially if HIV+, have increased risk of meningococcal disease

US researchers report that the overall incidence of meningococcal disease was four times higher among MSM compared to non-MSM, with the risk especially high for HIV-positive MSM.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) have increased risk of meningococcal disease, according to US researchers whose work appeared in the online edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

In “Increased risk for meningococcal disease among men who have sex with men in the United States, 2012-2015”, T.A. Folaranmi et al noted that the overall incidence of meningococcal disease was four times higher among MSM compared to non-MSM, with the risk especially high for HIV-positive MSM.

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection caused by Neisseria meningitidis. This bacteria can be transmitted in saliva, including through kissing or sexual contact, with typical symptoms of infection including fever, severe headache and stiff neck, often accompanied by sensitivity to light, confusion and nausea.

To better understand the overall burden and risk of meningococcal disease among MSM in the US, the researchers examined data from the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System, identifying all cases of the infection reported in men aged between 18-64 years between 2012 and 2015. A comparison of the incidence and risk was made between MSM and non-MSM. Samples of bacteria from infected MSM were also examined to identify the meningococcal serotype and to see if the infections were genetically linked.

The researchers identified a total of 527 cases of the disease. Of these, 74 (14%) were MSM. Approximately 60% of cases in MSM involved men with HIV infection.

Eighty-five percent (85%) of cases in MSM were infected with Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C, but just 26% of cases in non-MSM.

As per the research, the MSM had a high prevalence of risk factors for meningococcal infection (often contracted through contact with infected saliva), with 32% reporting smoking, 49% use of recreational drugs, and 45% multiple sexual partners.

The findings support recommendations for HIV-positive people to get the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine.

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