The world’s first infant vaccine for meningococcal B (MenB) meningitis became part of routine vaccinations in the United Kingdom Sept. 1.
This continues the U.K. trend of being the leading nation in the world in terms of meningitis protection, as it was also the first nation to introduce the MenC vaccine in 1999.
“The U.K. has always been a world leader in vaccination and in particular vaccination for the prevention of meningitis and septicaemia,” Meningitis Research Foundation
The foundation's Meningococcus Genome Library, which provides the genetic blueprints of almost all meningococci isolated as a cause of disease in England, Wales and Ireland since July 2010, will be instrumental in evaluating the performance of the MenB vaccine in the U.K. in the coming years.
Following the U.K.’s adaptation of the MenC vaccine, other countries added it to their immunization routine and today the strain is almost eliminated. Most of the cases of meningitis that remain are related to MenB.
“Meningococcal B disease has been the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK since the mid-20th century, but it has taken decades to develop a broadly protective vaccine,” Head said. “MenB vaccine development was a huge challenge because the technology used for other meningitis vaccines wouldn’t work for MenB.”
In 1996, scientists at Novartis began decoding the genetic makeup of the bacteria associated with MenB. The scientists identified candidate proteins that could be used in vaccine development and, through process of elimination, developed the most promising candidates into the Bexsero vaccine licensed by the European commission in 2013.
One reason Bexsero is only now being added to routine immunization is debate over the vaccine’s cost-effectiveness. In response, MRF has funded research aimed to improve cost-effectiveness for vaccines in the future.