Intimate kissing and teen's risk of meningitis
Intimate kissing (in teens) with multiple partners, and a history of preceding illness are risk factors for meningococcal disease.
In adolescents, intimate kissing with multiple partners, and a history of preceding illness are independent risk factors for meningococcal disease, whereas religious observance and meningococcal vaccination are tied to reduced risks.
Meningococcal disease - a bacterial infection of the fluid within the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord - is largely a disease affecting children younger than 5 years, although in recent years there has been a rising rate among teens. This trend has served as a major stimulus for the development of the meningococcal vaccine, which has proven highly successful.
Exactly why the incidence of meningococcal disease peaks again around the adolescent years is unclear. Several studies have looked at risk factors for this disease in teenagers, but most have been limited to certain subgroups or included subject numbers.
Researchers from the University of London, UK, compared sociodemographics, lifestyle, and medical factors in 144 teenagers with menincogoccal disease and an equal number of healthy controls of similar age. Blood samples as well as throat and nasal swabs were obtained from all subjects. Overall, 114 of the 144 case patients were confirmed as having meningococcal disease with microbiologic tests.
Intimate kissing with multiple partners and preterm birth were the strongest independent risk factors for meningococcal disease, each raising the risk 3.7-fold. Being a college student and a history of preceding illness increased the odds 3.4- and 3-fold, respectively.
Attending one or more religious ceremonies in the 2 weeks before illness was associated with a 90 percent reduced risk of meningococcal disease. Similarly, receipt of the meningococcal vaccine cut the risk of disease by 88 percent.
The above results suggest that changing personal behaviours could reduce the risk of meningococcal disease in adolescence. Still, behaviour-based health promotion messages are unlikely to have a major impact on disease rates in this group. The development of further effective meningococcal vaccines therefore remains a key public health priority.
British Medical Journal,
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