Vaccine for deadly meningitis strain in offing

December 26th, 2010 - 4:06 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 26 (IANS) A vaccine against the deadly meningitis B - the strain against which there is currently no defence - may be available next year.Experts predict it will dramatically cut the risk of children dying from the disease, which kills dozens each year and leaves hundreds with lifelong disabilities.

Bexsero is the first vaccine providing broad protection against 800 deadly, disease-circulating meningococcal B strains.

Results from 7,500 children, adolescents and adults taking part in trials show they produced antibodies against 77 percent of these strains, the Daily Mail reports.

Meningococcal B is the most common form of bacterial meningitis in Britain and one of the most deadly, in some cases killing the victim in a few hours.

It accounts for most cases of the disease and poses the toughest challenge because there are many strains to target.

Although vaccination programmes have been successfully introduced to combat pneumococcal meningitis and the strains C and Hib, but no B vaccine currently exists.

Teams from the Health Protection Agency have helped to test the jab, developed by Novartis which applied for a licence to the European Medicines Agency.

It is likely to be approved in the next few months, paving the way for inclusion in the childhood immunisation programme.

Steve Dayman, chief executive of the Meningitis UK charity, who lost his son Spencer to the disease in 1982, said: “This could be the most significant vaccine to emerge since polio vaccination took off in the 1960s.”

There are more than 1,200 cases of meningitis B in the UK each year, resulting in 120 deaths - half in the under-fives.

Around 250 children are left with serious life-long complications such as limb amputations, blindness and brain damage.

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