An in-depth study of genes involved with the susceptibility and the severity of meningococcal disease in children

Genetic susceptibility

Scientific version
  • Researchers:
    Dr David Inwald, Professor Mike Levin
  • Start Date:
    06 December 2010
  • Category:
    Prevention, Treatment
  • Location:
    Imperial College, London, UK
An in-depth study of genes involved with the susceptibility and the severity of meningococcal disease in children
What is this project about?

There is now clear evidence that genetic factors determine why some people get meningococcal disease and others do not and also that genetic factors determine the outcome of the infection. However, this evidence comes from studies involving small patient numbers and focused on only a few genes.

Now, after over a decade of work, Professor Mike Levin and his team have assembled a very large genetic library from patients with meningococcal disease and appropriate ‘controls’ (healthy patients who did not get meningococcal disease) for comparison. An MRF funded programme of genetic research on meningococcal disease based at Imperial College has enabled the team to collect samples from patients both from St Mary’s Hospital and from MRF members throughout the UK. Additional UK collections as well as European collections have been established through an international meningococcal disease genetics consortium, so that the genetic library includes about 1500 meningococcal samples and 6000 healthy controls.

In 2008, Professor Levin completed a study using this very large genetic library and produced very strong, reproducible information that can be used for the exploration of genes involved in susceptibility and outcome of the disease. In this application, researchers plan to undertake further analysis of this data using novel ‘bioinformatic’ methods (finding patterns and associations in the genetics using computing). From these results, they ultimately aim to explore the biological and functional role of the genes.

Why is this important?

Although genetic studies have provided important clues to the pathways determining susceptibility and outcome of meningococcal disease, they have mainly been undertaken on relatively small numbers of patients and most have not yet been reproduced in larger studies. There has been increasing awareness that genetic studies should involve larger numbers of patients in order to deliver reliable discoveries.

The recent development of high-throughput methods for whole genome gene scanning, together with computing methods for analyzing and interpreting the information these studies yield, now offer powerful new tools for undertaking such very large genetic studies.

Potential outcomes

The study will help us to understand the disease in order to develop new therapies and to help identify those who are at risk and those who will develop the most severe disease.

MRF Conference - Nov 2011

Dr Victoria Wright presented some of the results of the work at our international scientific conference in London.

Sept 2010 - Members visit

On 3rd September 2010, a large group of 20 members visited St Mary's Hospital to meet Professor Michael Levin, Dr David Inwald, Dr Nazima Pathan and Dr Simon Nadel.

We heard lots about the work they are doing and about the whole programme of work that MRF has been funding there since the mid 1990's. This included the genetics research but also some of our other funding for a healthcare delivery study.

We also had a tour around the labs from Dr Victoria Wright and saw where the bacteria are worked on and how protected the lab workers have to be.

History of MRF funding

This project is the latest study in a programme of funded work at St Mary's Hospital. Professor Mike Levin received one of our first research grants and has since led several research projects into our genes and how they may influence our susceptibility to meningococcal disease.

See the related projects on the right for Professor Levin's previous work into this important area.

Brian lost his daughter Elizabeth to meningococcal disease

Patient DNA samples are collected and genetic differences are tracked
Patient DNA samples are collected and genetic differences are tracked

Book of Experience

Miko Mitchell

Meningococcal disease

Our little girl had it twice. 'Bad luck' they say. A bit of bad luck is all it needs to...

» Read this story

Target amount


Donated so far


So far £0.00 has been raised for this project including these recent donations...
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