Natural development of immunity to meningococcal bacteria

Prevention; University of Bristol.

Scientific version
  • Researchers:
    Dr Robert Heyderman, Professor Neil Williams
  • Start Date:
    01 January 2001
  • Category:
  • Location:
    Bristol University, Bristol, UK

Meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) due to meningococcal infection cause substantial death and disability.

In the year 2000, over 3,000 children and adults contracted the disease in the UK, and over 500 in Ireland, and approximately 1 in 12 died.

With the recently introduced Group C meningococcal vaccine proving so successful, attention is now focused on developing a vaccine to protect against Group B meningococcal disease, which is more common.

Natural protection against meningitis and septicaemia through the development of immunity probably occurs after transient contact with meningococcal bacteria in the back of the throat-natural mucosal immunisation.

Previously in work funded by the Foundation the researchers have investigated naturally acquired mucosal immunity to proteins on the surface of the meningococcal bacteria and have established methods to investigate this natural immunity more thoroughly.

The researchers believe that the key to a group B vaccine is one that mimics this natural immunisation process. They now intend to carry out more comprehensive analysis of how naturally acquired mucosal immunity to the meningococcal bacteria happens. This should provide important clues for the design and implementation of new group B vaccines.

Read our news release on this project:

Bristol scientists in meningitis vaccine bid

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

Davenport V, Guthrie T, Findlow J, Borrow R, Williams NA, Heyderman RS.
Evidence for naturally acquired T cell-mediated mucosal immunity to Neisseria meningitidis.
J Immunol 2003 Oct 15;171(8):4263-70.

Horton RE, Stuart J, Christensen H, Borrow R, Guthrie T, Davenport V, Finn A, Williams NA, Heyderman RS.
Influence of age and carriage status on salivary IgA to Neisseria meningitidis.
Epidemiol Infect 2005 Oct;133(5):883-9.

Guthrie T, Hobbs CG, Davenport V, Horton RE, Heyderman RS, Williams NA.
Parenteral influenza vaccination influences mucosal and systemic T cell-mediated immunity in healthy adults.
J Infect Dis 2004 Dec 1;190(11):1927-35. Epub 2004 Oct 27.

Davenport V, Groves E, Hobbs CC, Williams NA, Heyderman RS. Regulation of Th-1 T cell-dominated immunity to Neisseria meningitidis within the human mucosa
Cell Microbiol 2006 Dec 12; [Epub ahead of print].

Heyderman RS, Davenport V, Williams NA,.
Mucosal immunity and optimizing protection with meningococcal serogroup B vaccines.
Trends Microbiol. 2006 Mar;14(3):120-4. Epub 2006 Feb 15.