Breakthrough could lead to meningitis B vaccine

Health officials in the United Kingdom say that a recent successful medical trial could lead the to the development of a vaccination for children against meningitis B.

Representatives of pharmaceutical giant Novartis recently released clinical study results that showed a large majority of infants that were administered a new test drug displayed a robust immune response against strains of the disease, United Kingdom Press Association reports.

Officials with Charity Meningitis UK told the UKPA that they believe the results are promising and that this could lead to a vaccine that could potentially save the lives of thousands of children.

Meningitis B is the most common form of the meningitis disease and is responsible for up to 80 percent of the cases in the UK. Medical officials also note that meningitis B is one of the most deadly forms of the disease, with symptoms that can kill within 24 to 48 hours of onset.

Due to its complex nature, meningitis B is also one of the hardest forms of meningitis to immunize against. To date, there are no widespread vaccines in existence, medical officials told UKPA.

In the recent clinical study, Novartis researchers gave 3,600 infants injections of the company's Multicomponent Meningococcal Serogroup B Vaccine.

The researchers discovered that a large majority of the test subjects had a robust immune response against three strains of meningitis B causing bacteria. Researchers also noted the test vaccine had an acceptably low level of adverse reaction when given in conjunction with other infant vaccines. Researchers are hopeful that this means the vaccine could be used in the first year of life, when it is most needed.

Dr Andrew Pollard, professor of pediatric infection and immunity at Oxford University, told UKPA that, so far, the research results have been promising.

“Many cases of meningitis are prevented today by the vaccines we give to our children, but the more complex meningitis B remains as a major threat to public health,” Pollard told UKPA. “The encouraging data presented on 4CMenB indicate the potential for additional protection to be provided by this new vaccine.”