The genetically determined inability to secrete the water-soluble glycoprotein form of the ABO blood group antigens into saliva and other body fluids is a recognized risk factor for meningococcal disease. During a community-wide investigation of a prolonged outbreak of disease due to a B15: P1.16 sulphonamideresistant strain of Neisseria meningitidis in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire (the Stonehouse survey), the ABO blood group and secretor status of almost 5000 residents was determined.
The proportion of non-secretors in the Stonehouse population was significantly higher than the proportion of non-secretors among blood donors in the South West Region and in England generally. Seven of 13 Stonehouse residents with meningococcal disease who were tested were found to be non-secretors, a high proportion. The outbreak in Stonehouse cannot be explained solely in terms of the increased proportion of non-secretors. There was no clear correlation between the proportions of non-secretors in different areas within the town and the incidence of cases of meningococcal disease.
Carriers of meningococci, whether outbreak or other strains, were not more likely to be non-secretors. The reasons why non-secretors are more susceptible to meningococcal disease remain to be determined, but they do not appear to be related to carriage of meningococci.