SCIENTISTS in Hampshire have taken a significant step forward in the fight against meningitis after discovering new vaccines can curb its spread.

University of Southampton researchers say its study suggests they could help stamp out the virus, which kills 130,000 people globally, by stopping the bug being carried in the nose and throat.

Robert Reid, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Southampton, who led the study, said this could cut person-to-person transmission long after currently used forms of immunisations wear off.

He said: "We have shown that vaccines modify the way the bacteria are carried, so even when the antibodies are no longer present in the blood, the carriage in the throat is still prevented, and so is onward transmission of the infection to others."

Their study gave two jabs to 500 volunteers in Southampton, aged 18 to 24.

That age group is prone to catching the bug because of their lifestyle choices such as bedroom-sharing, smoking, kissing and attending bars and clubs.

One in ten carry the disease with no symptom but can still pass it on.

Each volunteer was given one dose of the MenB vaccine or one does of MenACWY-CRM and then a placebo.

None of the is currently used in the UK.

One month after the vaccines were given neither if them had any effect on infection rates, the researched showed.

But over a year, MenACWY-CRM lowered carriage rates by 39 per cent while MenB reduced them by 20 per cent to 30 per cent.

The news has been cautiously welcomed by the Meningitis Research Foundation.

Chief executive Chris Head said: "We are keen to see further research so that the vaccine can be more widely used and more lives saved."