Susceptibility to meningitis pinpointed

There are genetic differences that make some people susceptible to meningococcal meningitis and septicemia and leave others immune, according to recently released research.

The new study of 6,000 people was the largest of its kind ever attempted. It was undertaken by Imperial and the Genome Institute of Singapore and published in the August edition of Nature Genetics. The results suggest that people who develop meningococcal meningitis and septicemia have innate differences in their immune systems that leave them unable to successfully attack meningococcal bacteria, according to the Imperial College Reporter.

There is now an explanation as to how thousands of people carry the bacteria in their throats throughout their lifetimes without ever actually developing the disease.

“Our study set out to understand what causes this small group of people to become very ill whilst others remain immune,” Michael Levin, an author of the study, said, according to the Imperial College Reporter. “Our findings provide the strongest evidence so far that there are genetic factors that lead to people developing meningitis.”

The scientists hope that their research will accelerate the development of a vaccine for the group B strain of the disease, for which there is currently no known cure. Strain B causes thousands of deaths globally each year.