New vaccines and drug treatments urgently needed for bacterial meningitis

Published on November 9, 2012 at 6:13 AM · No Comments

The final Series paper, which describes the effect of vaccines on bacterial meningitis, highlights the fact that three main species of bacteria – Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Neisseria meningitidis – are responsible for most cases of bacterial meningitis worldwide.  All three infections can be prevented by vaccines that are highly effective against specific types of each bacterium, known as conjugate vaccines.  The impact of conjugate vaccines on meningitis has been most striking for Haemophilus influenzae meningitis, with reductions in cases of over 95%.  The authors, from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, highlight the lack of pre- and post-vaccine data from low- and middle-income countries, where the disease burden from bacterial meningitis is greatest, and where vaccine introduction has been most recent or is yet to occur.

Researchers predict that widespread deployment of currently available vaccines in optimum schedules can be predicted to have a major effect on the burden of bacterial meningitis in future years.  However, according to the authors, "Important challenges remain. These include delivery of potent vaccines to difficult-to-access populations at risk, and appropriately designed and conducted studies of effectiveness, which require adequate surveillance to be in place before vaccine introduction.  Development and testing of vaccines able to provide protection against the greatest range of bacterial types is an important future goal, even more so because of the striking reductions in disease in unimmunised older age groups which can be achieved through vaccination of young children."

Source: The Lancet

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