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BACKGROUND: Herd protection by meningococcal vaccines is conferred by population-level reduction of meningococcal nasopharyngeal colonization. Given the inverse epidemiological association between colonization by commensal Neisseria lactamica and meningococcal disease, we investigated whether controlled infection of human volunteers with N. lactamica prevents colonization by Neisseria meningitidis. METHODS: In a block-randomized human challenge study, 310 university students were inoculated with 10(4) colony-forming units of N. lactamica or were sham-inoculated, and carriage was monitored for 26 weeks, after which all participants were reinoculated with N. lactamica and resampled 2 weeks later. RESULTS: At baseline, natural N. meningitidis carriage in the control group was 22.4% (36/161), which increased to 33.6% (48/143) by week 26. Two weeks after inoculation of N. lactamica, 33.6% (48/143) of the challenge group became colonized with N. lactamica. In this group, meningococcal carriage reduced from 24.2% (36/149) at inoculation to 14.7% (21/143) 2 weeks after inoculation (-9.5%; P = .006). The inhibition of meningococcal carriage was only observed in carriers of N. lactamica, was due both to displacement of existing meningococci and to inhibition of new acquisition, and persisted over at least 16 weeks. Crossover inoculation of controls with N. lactamica replicated the result. Genome sequencing showed that inhibition affected multiple meningococcal sequence types. CONCLUSIONS: The inhibition of meningococcal carriage by N. lactamica is even more potent than after glycoconjugate meningococcal vaccination. Neisseria lactamica or its components could be a novel bacterial medicine to suppress meningococcal outbreaks. This observation explains the epidemiological observation of natural immunity conferred by carriage of N. lactamica. CLINICAL TRIALS REGISTRATION: NCT02249598.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Infect Dis

Publication Date





1512 - 1520


Neisseria lactamica, Neisseria meningitidis, herd protection, meningococcal carriage, meningococcal vaccination, Adolescent, Adult, Antibiosis, Carrier State, Female, Humans, Male, Meningococcal Infections, Neisseria lactamica, Neisseria meningitidis, Probiotics, Prospective Studies, Treatment Outcome, Young Adult