Genetic susceptibility to meningitis and septicaemia and factors controlling severity of disease

Prevention and treatment; Imperial College School of Medicine at St Mary's Hospital, London.

Scientific version
  • Researchers:
    Dr Martin Hibberd, Professor Michael Levin
  • Start Date:
    01 January 2000
  • Category:
  • Location:
    Imperial College School of Medicine at St Mary's Hospital, London, UK

The majority of us will, at some stage in life, carry the bacteria that cause meningococcal infection, but only a tiny proportion of us will develop the infection. Scientists do not know why this is so.

This project compares genes isolated from families affected by meningococcal disease with those from unaffected families to find out whether inherited immune defects predispose certain people to the disease.

Meningococcal septicaemia causes damage to blood vessels. In some patients this damage occurs more quickly and extensively than in others because of abnormalities in blood clotting and inflammation mechanisms. This project aims to determine whether such abnormalities are inherited.

The research will provide insights that may lead to new therapies, and may establish a basis to identify people who are most at risk of infection so that steps can be taken to protect them.

Results from this study have been published in scientific journals as follows:

Smirnova I, Mann N, Dols A, Derkx HH, Hibberd ML, Levin M, Beutler B.
Assay of locus-specific genetic load implicates rare Toll-like receptor 4 mutations in meningococcal susceptibility.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2003 May 13;100(10):6075-80. Epub 2003 May 2.

Haralambous E, Weiss HA, Radalowicz A, Hibberd ML, Booy R, Levin M.
Sibling familial risk ratio of meningococcal disease in UK Caucasians.
Epidemiol Infect 2003 Jun;130(3):413-8.

Haralambous E, Hibberd ML, Hermans PW, Ninis N, Nadel S, Levin M.
Role of functional plasminogen-activator-inhibitor-1 4G/5G promoter polymorphism in susceptibility, severity, and outcome of meningococcal disease in Caucasian children.
Crit Care Med 2003 Dec;31(12):2788-93.