Factors such as parental smoking and unfavorable socioeconomic conditions
increase the risk of meningococcal disease in children, according to the results of a population-based
study from the Czech Republic.
Dr. P. Kriz, from the National Institute of Public Health in Prague, and a multicenter group collected data
on 68 cases of meningococcal meningitis in children younger than 15 years of age. The socioeconomic
status and smoke exposure of these subjects was compared with 135 controls from the same school,
who were matched for age, sex, and place of residence.
"Invasive meningococcal disease was strongly associated with parental smoking; rate ratios adjusted for
socioeconomic factors were 3.5...for smoking of mother, 3.2...for smoking of father, and 2.7...for every 20
cigarettes smoked at home on an average day," according to their report in the August issue of the
Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Additionally, Dr. Kriz's group found that the risk of meningococcal disease was inversely related maternal
education. Other factors such as car ownership, paternal education, crowding and number of siblings had
either no association or only a weak association with the risk of meningococcal disease. They also found
that the type of heating in the home was not related to the disease.
Dr. Kriz and colleagues note that their findings on meningococcal disease are "similar to other infections."
Socioeconomic status and crowding, they point out, have been associated with bacterial meningitis, and
smoking during pregnancy has been associated with childhood infections and SIDS.
Given their findings, the researchers believe that "although the exact mechanisms are not known,
improving social conditions and reducing parental smoking seem appropriate interventions" for
meningococcal disease, as well as for other conditions.