A germ that causes meningitis is becoming resistant to the drug most often used to treat the deadly disease.
Meningitis, an infection of the linings of the brain and spinal cord, strikes thousands of Africans every year, with smaller outbreaks in other parts of the world.
Meningitis often is caused by neisseria meningitidis, bacteria that usually live harmlessly in the nose and throat and can be spread by sneezing or direct contact.
Drug-resistant strains of type B neisseria meningitidis were found in 11 patients in Vietnam and one patient in France from 1987 to 1996, scientists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
The researchers found that the 12 different strains all had the same genetic variation that made them resistant to chloramphenicol, the standard treatment for meningitis in developing countries.
All 12 strains also were resistant to streptomycin and sulfonamide drugs. However, they responded to other medication, including penicillin and tetracycline.