I look like a coffee bean...
The meningococcus appears under the microscope as a Gram-negative microbe (pink, stained with fuchsin). It is usually present in pairs, looking like a “coffee bean”.
This germ called Neisseria meningitidis1 is one of the four main causes of bacterial meningitis2. Other causes of meningitis are pneumococcus, listeria and Haemophilus influenzae. Meningococcus can also cause a disseminated infection through the bloodstream, called meningococcemia3. Meningitis2 is a severe disease that usually presents with headache, fever and neck stiffness. A medical consultation is recommended in the presence of these symptoms.
Watch out for outbreaks!
Meningococcus is usually spread from person to person by respiratory droplets4. Thus, epidemics can occur especially when many people live together (epidemic in school classes or in the army, for example).
Fortunately, a vaccine5 is available, particularly recommended for people at risk (health professionals, people working in microbiology laboratories, vulnerable people, …).