Southampton doctors are trialling a new vaccine that could offer children across the UK “broad protection” against meningitis B.
The study will investigate the effectiveness of the vaccine in 50 children and young people between the ages of ten and 18.
This strain of meningitis, known as serogroup B, is a highly aggressive bacterial infection that causes swelling of the brain and spinal cord and can lead to brain damage or blood poisoning.
Around 1,870 people, mainly children under five years or babies under a year old, contract the infection every year – and one in ten survivors will have major physical or neurological disabilities.
The trial is being conducted at the NIHR Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility at Southampton General Hospital.
While a vaccine which protects against another strain – meningitis C – is given as part of the nationwide childhood vaccination schedule there is no routine vaccination currently available for type B.
Although a new vaccine, Bexsero, was licensed in Europe in January the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advised the NHS against adopting it due to a lack of evidence of its effectiveness.
A total of 3,600 young people from 80 research sites – four in the UK – in eight countries are participating in the study.
Professor Saul Faust, a specialist in children’s immunology and infectious diseases at Southampton General Hospital and the University of Southampton, said: “This is an extremely exciting study of a vaccine that could provide broad protection against meningitis B, which is the major cause of brain inflammation and blood poisoning in the UK and often has devastating consequences.
“An effective vaccine for type C meningococcus was introduced in to the routine immunisation schedule more than a decade ago and we now want to see young people being offered the same level of protection against the highly aggressive type B form.”