Study highlights success of meningitis C vaccination programme among UK children

Authors of a research letter in this weeks issue of THE LANCET report how the introduction of a recent vaccination campaign in the UK has substantially reduced the potential for group C meningococcal infection among children.

In the absence of effective vaccination programmes, meningococcal disease remains a major public-health problem worldwide. In Europe, North America, and Australasia most cases occur in young children and adolescents and are caused by group B or C meningococcal bacteria. The UK was the first country to introduce vaccination against meningococcal group C disease in November, 1999. The entire population aged 18 years or younger-around 14 million people-were offered the vaccine; take-up assessed a year later was around 70%.

This multi centre collaborative study, led by Martin Maiden from the University of Oxford, UK, and James Stuart from the UK Public Health Laboratory Service, compared the carriage of meningococcal bacteria from around 14,000 students aged 15-17 years at the start of vaccination in 1999, with around 16,500 students of the same age surveyed 1 year later. The investigators report a two-thirds reduction in the carriage of group C meningococci after vaccination.

Martin Maiden comments: This is the first time that meningococcal C conjugate vaccines have been shown to reduce carriage, potentially protecting unvaccinated members of the population. In addition, the Wellcome Trust has funded a comprehensive analysis of bacterial samples from thousands of human carriers so that we can look into the effect of the vaccine on the bacterial population. The study is providing information that will be invaluable in the search for comprehensive vaccines against this disease. (quote by e-mail; does not appear in published paper).


Contact: Richard Lane

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