Rapid, non-culture, serogroup determination of meningococcal infection is important in contact management where vaccination may be possible. The impending availability of polysaccharide–protein conjugate vaccines for serogroup C disease requires maximal case ascertainment, with serogroup determination, at a time when the number of culture confirmed meningococcal infections is decreasing. A polymerase chain reaction assay (PCR), based on a restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) in the meningococcal serogroup B and C sialyltransferase (siaD) gene, was developed to combine the non-culture diagnosis of meningococcal infection from CSF, whole blood and serum with serogroup (B and C) identification. The PCR assay was adapted to an ELISA format incorporating hybridization with serogroup-specific B and C oligonucleotide probes. Specificity for CSFs was 100% and sensitivities were respectively 81, 63 and 30% for CSFs, whole blood and sera. The serogroup-specific PCR ELISA is a significant addition to currently available tests for non-culture diagnosis of meningococcal infection and outbreak investigation.
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