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Journal of Immunology Research
Volume 2015, Article ID 189153, 26 pages
Review Article

How the Knowledge of Interactions between Meningococcus and the Human Immune System Has Been Used to Prepare Effective Neisseria meningitidis Vaccines

1Department of Health Sciences, University of Genoa, Via Pastore 1, 16132 Genoa, Italy
2Department of Health Sciences, University of Florence, Viale G.B. Morgagni 48, 50134 Florence, Italy

Received 21 January 2015; Accepted 9 June 2015

Academic Editor: Nejat K. Egilmez

Copyright © 2015 R. Gasparini et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In the last decades, tremendous advancement in dissecting the mechanisms of pathogenicity of Neisseria meningitidis at a molecular level has been achieved, exploiting converging approaches of different disciplines, ranging from pathology to microbiology, immunology, and omics sciences (such as genomics and proteomics). Here, we review the molecular biology of the infectious agent and, in particular, its interactions with the immune system, focusing on both the innate and the adaptive responses. Meningococci exploit different mechanisms and complex machineries in order to subvert the immune system and to avoid being killed. Capsular polysaccharide and lipooligosaccharide glycan composition, in particular, play a major role in circumventing immune response. The understanding of these mechanisms has opened new horizons in the field of vaccinology. Nowadays different licensed meningococcal vaccines are available and used: conjugate meningococcal C vaccines, tetravalent conjugate vaccines, an affordable conjugate vaccine against the N. menigitidis serogroup A, and universal vaccines based on multiple antigens each one with a different and peculiar function against meningococcal group B strains.