British scientists said on Tuesday they have made a breakthrough in meningitis research which could lead to the development of a vaccine against all forms of the potentially deadly disease.
Experiments at the University of Surrey used genetic engineering to make mice immune to a broad range of strains of the disease, including group B strains for which there are currently no vaccines.
“This is the first time I am aware of that an experiment has been able to demonstrate protection against multiple strains of meningitis,” said Professor Johnjoe McFadden, who led the research team.
“There are still many years work to do but we are hopeful that it is going to give us a route towards developing a broad vaccine,” he said.
Protection against all types
Meningitis, an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord which affects hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, has historically been difficult to treat because it has so many different strains.
In the UK there are between 2,000 and 3,000 cases each year and one in ten people who contract the disease die.
“The unique thing about this research is that it provides hope for a complete vaccine protecting people against all types of the meningococcal bacteria -- the most common cause of meningitis worldwide,” said Will Guyatt, spokesman for the Meningitis Trust, which contributed quarter of a million pounds to the research.
“Whilst there is already a vaccine available to protect against group C meningitis, it is important to find a vaccine for group B as it continues to kill hundreds of people in the UK every year,” Guyatt said.