Hopes for a vaccine to prevent the occurrence of deadly meningitis B in children have been given a boost after a new test drug proved successful in developing an immune response.
Trials by pharmaceutical giant Novartis showed that “a large majority” of infants given the drug achieved a “robust immune response” against strains of the disease.
Scientists gave injections of Multicomponent Meningococcal Serogroup B Vaccine (4CMenB) to 3,600 infants and it proved successful in tackling three strains of Meningitis B causing bacteria.
In addition, it was seen to be have an acceptably low level of adverse reaction when given in conjunction with other infant vaccines.
This suggests it could be used as a vaccine in the first year of life – when it is most needed.
Charity Meningitis UK said the results could eventually lead to a vaccine that would save the lives of thousands of children.
Meningitis B is the most common form of the disease, causing up to 80% of cases in the UK. It is also one of the most deadly, with symptoms that can kill within 24 to 48 hours of onset.
But due to its complex nature, it has been the hardest to immunise against. There are no widespread vaccines in existence.
The results of the trial were presenting at a conference in Banff, Canada.
Dr Andrew Pollard, professor of paediatric infection and immunity at Oxford University, said: “The encouraging data presented on 4CMenB indicate the potential for additional protection to be provided by this new vaccine.”
Paul Langford, chair of Meningitis UK’s Scientific Advisory Panel, said: “If the promise shown by this vaccine can be translated to the clinic, and is as successful as the meningococcal group C vaccine introduced in 1999, there is the prospect of elimination of most meningococcal disease from the UK and saving thousands of lives in the future.”
Copyright Press Association 2010