Meningococcal disease is almost 12 times more likely to occur in a child whose mother is pregnant, possibly due to hormonal alterations in the mucosal barriers of pregnant women that predispose them to carry the bacteria.
Elske van Gils and her colleagues at the University of Amsterdam examined family composition in 176 hospitalized children (mean age about 4 years); 88 were admitted with confirmed meningococcal disease and 88 for other reasons, mostly surgery.
Among the meningococcal cases, 17 (19%) of mothers were pregnant during the hospitalization, 6 were in their first or second trimester, and the rest were in their third trimester (Pediatrics 2005;115:590–3).
Among the controls, only 2 (2%) of mothers were pregnant. Pregnancy was associated with an increased odds ratio of 11.7, multivariate analysis showed.
Other studies have found that meningococcal infections in children are related to maternal carriage. The authors hypothesized that pregnant women may have increased or prolonged carriage rates.