University students, especially those living in dormitories, are known to have a high risk of invasive meningococcal disease. We performed a longitudinal study to investigate the change in Neisseria meningitidis carriage rates and identify the risk factors for carriage acquisition in university students in South Korea. We recruited university entrants who were admitted to a student dormitory. Pharyngeal swabs were taken from participants at baseline, 1 month, and 3 months, and the subjects completed a questionnaire. Culture and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for species-specific ctrA and sodC genes were performed. The cultured isolates or PCR-positive samples were further evaluated for epidemiologic characterization using serogrouping, PorA typing, FetA typing, and multilocus sequence typing (MLST). At the first visit, we enrolled 332 participants who were predominantly male (64.2%) with a median age of 19 years. Meningococcal carriage rates increased from 2.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.9–4.4%) at baseline to 6.3% (95% CI 3.4–9.0%) at 1 month and 11.8% (95% CI 7.8–15.6%) at 3 months. Nongroupable isolates accounted for 50.0% of all isolates, with serogroup B being the next most prevalent (24.1%). In the study population, male sex (OR 2.613, 95% CI 1.145–5.961, p = 0.022) and frequent pub or club visits (OR 3.701, 95% CI 1.536–8.919, p = 0.004) were significantly associated with meningococcal carriage. Based on serotype and MLST analyses, six carriers transmitted meningococci to other study participants. N. meningitidis carriage rates among new university entrants who lived in a dormitory significantly increased within the first 3 months of dormitory stay, probably owing to the transmission of identical genotype among students. Based on the risk of meningococcal disease, meningococcal vaccination should be considered for students before dormitory admission.
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© 2021 Choi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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