Meningitis jab ‘protection hope’

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A vaccine against one of the most common forms of childhood meningitis could reduce the number of deaths in the UK even further.The current vaccination programme protects against only some of the bacterial types involved.

A Chilean study, reported in The Lancet medical journal, found more evidence the new vaccine works against the B form of the disease.This causes about 2,000 cases in the UK each year, mostly in the under-fives.

The meningitis vaccine programme here is thought to have saved many hundreds of lives over the past decade.However, meningitis B has been an elusive target for vaccine developers, as it is a group of thousands of subtly-different strains of bacteria, making it difficult to find a single jab that could cover them all.

So while four other major strains are included in the vaccine, the danger from meningitis B remains.The infection, which causes inflammation of membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain, still causes more than 100 deaths a year, with many more children suffering serious and potentially disabling illness.

Scientists produced the “4CMenB” vaccine by analysing the genetic structure of thousands of B strains, looking for shared features which could be targeted.There have already been encouraging results when given to toddlers, and the latest study, carried out by University of Chile scientists, looked at its effectiveness when given to 11 to 17-year-olds.

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