Research Highlight

Genetic marker for meningitis

doi:10.1038/nindia.2011.164 Published online 8 November 2011

Researchers have reported a rapid, PCR-based diagnostic tool that looks for a specific virulence gene to detect Neisseria meningitidis, the bacteria that causes the life-threatening meningitis in humans.

Conventional diagnosis of bacterial meningitis is expensive, time consuming and non-confirmatory. Researchers from New Delhi-based Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology improved existing methods to bring down the detection time to about 80 minutes. They used specific primers to look for the virulence opc gene of N. meningitidis, thereby using it as a genetic marker for detection of the bacteria.

The researchers carried out diagnostic tests on 20 samples from suspected bacterial meningitis patients using the different available methods as well as PCR using opc gene primers. They found that three samples, which tested positive by other methods, were actually shown negative by PCR.

The opc is a unique virulence gene of meningococci and, therefore, PCR based detection of the bacteria has higher specificity, they report. The rapid test has been demonstrated to be effective in early diagnosis of meningitis even in the case where the patient has received prior antibiotic therapy.


  1. Kumar, A. et al. Opc gene as a specific genetic marker for human bacterial meningitis. J. Biosci. Med. doi: 10.5780/jbm2011.7 (2011)