Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Neisseria meningitis is a human commensal bacterium that occasionally causes life-threatening disease. As with a number of other bacterial pathogens, meningococcal populations comprise distinct lineages, which persist over many decades and during global spread in the face of high rates of recombination. In addition, the propensity to cause invasive disease is associated with particular "hyperinvasive" lineages that coexist with less invasive lineages despite the fact that disease does not contribute to host-to-host transmission. Here, by combining a modeling approach with molecular epidemiological data from 1,108 meningococci isolated in the Czech Republic over 27 years, we show that interstrain competition, mediated by immune selection, can explain both the persistence of multiple discrete meningococcal lineages and the association of a subset of these with invasive disease. The model indicates that the combinations of allelic variants of housekeeping genes that define these lineages are associated with very small differences in transmission efficiency among hosts. These findings have general implications for the emergence of lineage structure and virulence in recombining bacterial populations.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





15082 - 15087


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Alleles, Child, Child, Preschool, Czech Republic, Evolution, Molecular, Female, Genetic Variation, Humans, Infant, Male, Middle Aged, Molecular Epidemiology, Neisseria meningitidis, Selection, Genetic, Virulence