New vaccine trials show promise in fight against meningitis

Phase-three trials show the NmCV-5 vaccine can illicit an immune response against the five main strains of meningococcal bacteria.

A woman carries her sick child to the health center of Lazaret, near Niamey, on April 23, 2015, where are treated patients suffering from meningitis.
Results show immune response from one dose of NmCV-5 was notably higher than the licensed vaccine [File: Boureima Hama/AFP]

A new meningitis vaccine tested in two African countries has shown promise in the fight against the disease, eliciting immune responses against five main strains.

A new study published by the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday said the phase-three randomised trials were conducted on 1,800 people in the West African nations of Mali and The Gambia.

The under-trial NmCV-5 vaccine, developed by the health organisation PATH and India’s Serum Institute, was tested and compared with the WHO-approved and licensed MenACWY-D vaccine in participants in three age groups between two and 29 years old.

The results showed immune response from one dose of the NmCV-5 was notably higher than the licensed vaccine. According to the authors, no major safety concerns were found during the trial.

The study’s co-author, Ed Clarke said the findings of the study were “game changing”.

“The vaccine will provide protection against the types of meningitis bacteria that cause most of the devastating epidemics in the African meningitis belt,” Clarke told Al Jazeera..

Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes and tissues that cover the spinal cord and brain, and is caused by various species of bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses.

Symptoms of the disease include nausea, vomiting, fever and neck pain. About 250,000 people are estimated to die each year from meningitis.

‘Prevent catastrophic outcomes’

“Epidemic preparedness is the way forward in providing available, affordable and accessible vaccines relevant to regions prone to meningitis outbreaks. Having meningitis vaccines should be a public health priority to prevent catastrophic outcomes during an outbreak and would be a game changer in the fight against meningitis,” said study co-author Ama Umesi.

Bacterial meningitis is the most common form of the disease and can be fatal within 24 hours, according to the WHO, and cannot be treated at home. While it is found across the world, some of the highest numbers of cases are found in sub-Saharan Africa.

A road map by WHO, called Defeating Meningitis by 2030, aims to eliminate bacterial meningitis epidemics by 2030, a reduction of “vaccine-preventable bacterial meningitis” by 50 percent, and deaths by 70 percent.

Source: Al Jazeera