Patients taking eculizumab are at a significant risk for meningococcal disease even if they have received the quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) and serogroup B (MenB) meningococcal vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report , released July 7.

Between 2008 and 2016, 16 cases of meningococcal disease were reported in eculizumab users in 10 jurisdictions within the United States. Of those infected, 14 had received MenACWY and MenB vaccines as recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, according to the CDC report.

Required vaccination plus antimicrobial prophylaxis for the duration of eculizumab treatment might reduce the risk for meningococcal disease in these patients, but the addition of antibiotic prophylaxis is no guarantee that all cases of meningococcal disease would be prevented, wrote Lucy A. McNamara, PhD, of the division of bacterial diseases, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC, and her colleagues.

They advised physician and patient vigilance regarding meningococcal disease symptoms and urged that patients be advised to seek immediate care and be rapidly treated, regardless of meningococcal vaccination or antimicrobial prophylaxis status.

Health organizations in Europe, including France and the United Kingdom, are recommending eculizumab users receive penicillin during eculizumab treatment. A recent study of invasive meningococcal isolates in the United States found most were susceptible to penicillin, according to the report.

In the 16 U.S. cases reported, nongroupable Neisseria meningitidis caused meningococcal disease in 11 of the patients, serogroup Y was the cause in 4 patients, and the cause was not identified in 1 patient.

Ten patients had meningococcemia without meningitis, the researchers noted. “Initial symptoms of meningococcemia are often relatively mild and nonspecific and might include fever, chills, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, and aches or pains in the muscles, joints, chest, or abdomen; however, these symptoms can progress to severe illness and death within hours.”

Eculizumab (Soliris, Alexion Pharmaceuticals) is licensed in the United States for treatment of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria and atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, two diseases that are rare and can be fatal.

Eculizumab is associated with a 1,000-fold to 2,000-fold increased incidence of meningococcal disease among persons receiving the drug. The Food and Drug Administration–approved prescribing information includes a boxed warning regarding increased risk for meningococcal disease.

The CDC is collecting reports from state health departments for further analysis of the risk among eculizumab recipients.

The researchers reported having no conflicts of interest.

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