Resistant meningococcal strain circulating US, CDC warns

The CDC is warning healthcare providers about a new resistant strain of Neisseria meningitidis, which causes meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal disease is a life-threatening infection of the brain and spinal cord or bloodstream. The infection is usually treated with penicillin or ciprofloxacin. The antibiotics are also used for prophylaxis in people who've had close contact with the infected patient. 

However, the CDC has detected 11 meningococcal cases that occurred in nine states between 2019 and 2020 in which isolates contained a gene and mutations associated with resistance to these antibiotics. Another 22 cases reported from 2013 -20 contained the gene associated with penicillin resistance, but did not have mutations associated with ciprofloxacin resistance, according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published June 19.

The agency is urging clinicians to conduct antibiotic susceptibility testing before switching from empirical treatment to penicillin or ampicillin for patients with meningococcal disease.

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