HAMPSHIRE doctors are to develop a pioneering therapy in a bid to prevent infections.

Doctors in Southampton have pioneered the development of a nose drop that could help prevent meningitis and other diseases such as pneumonia and ear disease.

The groundbreaking drops contain a modified bacteria with a sticky surface protein that could help generate a strong immune response that protects against the meningitis-causing bacteria.

Meningitis is an infection caused by a bacteria that settles in the back of people’s nose and throat without symptoms but can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections.

It can affect anyone, but is most common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults.

Data shows that it is responsible for 1,500 cases a year in the UK and can cause death in as little as four hours from the onset of symptoms.

Now professor Robert Read, director of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre and his team are to pioneer the new therapy in a bid to prevent meningitis.

Professor Read said: “The next stage of this process is to test the drops on healthy volunteers in a clinical trial to ensure the strain of bacteria we have created is going to stay and grow in the nose.

“If successful then we will have a future therapy that we can adapt to combat other diseases caused by bacteria that breed in the nasal pathway such as pneumonia and ear disease.”

When clinical trials of the nose drop begin at the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility, it will be the first time a genetically modified bacteria has been used in this way to try to prevent infections that develop in the nose and throat.

As a first step in the process, professor Read and his research team have applied to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for permission to use the genetically-modified drop in volunteers.

It is anticipated that the study will get underway by the end of this year.