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In Italy, B and C are the predominant serogroups among meningococci causing invasive diseases. Nevertheless, in the period from 2013 to 2016, an increase in serogroup W (MenW) was observed. This study intends to define the main characteristics of 63 MenW isolates responsible of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in Italy from 2000 to 2016. We performed whole genome sequencing on bacterial isolates or single gene sequencing on culture-negative samples to evaluate molecular heterogeneity. Our main finding was the cocirculation of the Hajj and the South American sublineages belonging to MenW/clonal complex (cc)11, which gradually surpassed the MenW/cc22 in Italy. All MenW/cc11 isolates were fully susceptible to cefotaxime, ceftriaxone, ciprofloxacin, penicillin G and rifampicin. We identified the full-length NadA protein variant 2/3, present in all the MenW/cc11. We also identified the fHbp variant 1, which we found exclusively in the MenW/cc11/Hajj sublineage. Concern about the epidemic potential of MenW/cc11 has increased worldwide since the year 2000. Continued surveillance, supported by genomic characterisation, allows high-resolution tracking of pathogen dissemination and the detection of epidemic-associated strains.


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