The carriage of N. meningitidis in Australia is little understood. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence and risk factors for N. meningitidis carriage among South Australian university students. We also wanted to see if freezing oropharyngeal samples delayed changed their PCR positive, cycle threshold, or culture positivity. First-year university students had oropharyngeal swabs collected, which were then repeated after three months, with risk factor questionnaires completed at both visits. Specimens were tested for the presence of particular meningococcal DNA using real-time PCR. The research included 421 people, and 259 of them returned after three months. At the outset, 56% of participants were female, and 1.9 percent smoked. The prevalence of N. meningitidis at the start of the study was 6.2 percent. More than once a week visits to a bar and passionate kissing were linked to higher carriage. After accounting for missing data, the point estimate for carriage at 3 months was 8.6 percent, up from 6.2 percent at the start. N. meningitidis recovery on selective agar was substantially lower in cryovials frozen at 48 hours compared to 6 hours.
In South Australian university students, going to bars and participating in passionate kissing is linked to oropharyngeal carriage. Prior to increasing bar attendance, personal contact, and carriage acquisition, adolescent meningococcal vaccination programmes should be established in schools. Delaying freezing of oropharyngeal specimens for more than 16 hours lowers N. meningitidis production by culture but not PCR detection.
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