New vaccine shows promise to protect against common cause of meningitis

New vaccine shows promise to protect against common cause of meningitis
Monday, 7 May 2012

Researchers are an important step closer to finding a vaccine that protects against a wide range of strains of meningococcal B - the most common cause of meningococcal disease in Western Australia.

New research published Online First in The Lancet Infectious Diseases showed the trials of the potential vaccine had found it to be safe and that it stimulated an effective immune response.

The report's author, Associate Professor Peter Richmond, from The University of Western Australia, heads the Vaccine Trials Group, a collaboration between the UWA-affiliated Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and Princess Margaret Hospital.

"The development of a vaccine to protect against multiple strains of meningococcal B is particularly important in Western Australia and in many regions of Europe and North America where this particular type of meningococcal disease is most prevalent," Dr Richmond said.

"While children in Australia are routinely vaccinated against meningococcal C, there has been no vaccine available to protect against meningococcal B which is the most common cause of the disease in WA and in countries where Australians widely travel."

Dr Richmond, from UWA's School of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the trial data showed that the potential vaccine produced protective antibodies against 90% of the invasive meningococcus serogroup B strains tested.

This phase 2 trial enrolled 539 healthy adolescents from 25 sites across Australia, Poland and Spain to test the safety and immune response of the lipoprotein 2086 vaccine.

The B strains of the bacteria account for more than 90% per cent of meningococcal cases in WA.

"Meningococcal B can cause meningitis and blood poisoning and can progress very quickly with devastating effects," Dr Richmond said.

"Children between the ages of one month and one year are most at risk from meningococcal with a second peak in adolescents.

"This is the last major cause of meningitis for which we don't have a vaccine so we are very excited about the progress towards developing a safe and effective vaccine."

Dr Richmond said the next stage of development would involve bigger trials in a wider range of age groups.

Media references

Liz Chester (Strategic Communications, ICHR  (+61 8)  9489 7965  /  (+61 4) 09 988 530
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs)  (+61 8)  6488 3229  /  (+61 4) 00 700 783