A conjugate vaccine for Africa


Posted by Rachel Perrin on 01 July 2010

Hi, I'm Rachel Perrin and I'm MRF's International Development Officer.

Bacterial meningitis accounts for 2% of child deaths worldwide, but the burden of meningococcal meningitis is highest in the African meningitis belt (see map below), which saw almost 80,000 cases and over 4,000 reported deaths in the 2009 epidemic season alone.

Meningitis vaccine strategies in the developing world tend to be reactive. That means people only get immunized in an emergency situation once an outbreak starts. But last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) approved a new vaccine that could stop outbreaks before they even begin. This new vaccine - MenAfriVac™ - developed by the Meningitis Vaccine Project has just received prequalification from the WHO, meaning that it has been through a rigorous review process and meets quality-control requirements. MenAfriVac™ is now set to be introduced into Burkina Faso, one of the countries hardest hit by the deadly disease, later this year. Introduction of this new MenA vaccine in the African meningitis belt could make epidemic meningitis a thing of the past.

MenAfriVac™ protects against serogroup A meningitis, the strain responsible for most outbreaks of meningococcal disease in Africa. Costing less than 50 cents a dose, this “conjugate” vaccine will be much more immunogenic than the older (polysaccharide) vaccines currently used in Africa, and can be given to infants. Because conjugate vaccines prevent carriage and transmission of bacteria from person to person, it should protect the entire population (through herd immunity). Find out more about the African carriage study that MRF is funding.

The Meningitis Belt in Africa

The meningitis belt in sub-Saharan Africa: breaking the vicious cycle of meningitis outbreaks and reactive vaccination. [Taken from: Control of epidemic meningococcal disease, WHO practical guidelines, World Health Organization, 1998, 2nd edition, WHO/EMC/BAC/98.3 ]

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