[back] Meningitis  vaccines

vaccinate and suppress one strain and others emerge


09 June 2008

Meningitis C 'superbugs' threat

Meningitis C "superbugs" that are impervious to vaccines could pose a
new threat to children, new research has claimed.

Scientists in the UK have identified three strains with heightened
resistance to vaccine-triggered immune responses.

At present there are no reports of emerging vaccine-resistant
meningitis C in the community. But experts fear if the strains get a
foothold they could undermine the vaccine, introduced into the UK in 1999.

Each year more than 2,000 people, mostly children, are affected by
all forms of meningitis in Britain. The disease claims about 300
lives per year and leaves hundreds of other victims with permanent

No vaccine is currently available that can tackle the most common B
strain of meningitis bacteria. But the meningitis C vaccine has
reduced deaths in children by 95% and prevented more than 500 deaths.

Last year for the first time on record there were no deaths among
people under the age of 19 caused by meningitis C.

The authors of the new research, led by Professor Christoph Tang,
from Imperial College London, called for more studies into the
genetic changes behind vaccine resistant meningitis C.

A simple alteration in its DNA is thought to give the bug the
potential to avoid attack by immune system antibodies.

The study, published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, was
funded by the charity Meningitis UK.

Chief executive Steve Dayman said: "Meningitis can be incredibly hard
to detect as many of its symptoms are often similar to more minor
ailments such as the common cold or flu, plus there are occasions
when people show no, or very few, symptoms. For these reasons, we
believe the only way to eradicate meningitis completely is through
the development of a preventative vaccine. There is still a long way
to go before the disease can be eradicated completely and this latest
development just shows how vital it is that research continues."