Examination of two meningococcal surface proteins as potential vaccine targets

The vital role of proteins in the search for a MenB vaccine

Scientific version
  • Researchers:
    Dr Christopher Bayliss, Dr Ed Kaczmarski, Dr Hannah Chan, Professor Ian Feavers
  • Start Date:
    01 July 2010
  • Category:
  • Location:
    University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
Examination of two meningococcal surface proteins as potential vaccine targets
What is this project about?

In the search for potential MenB vaccine components, Dr Chris Bayliss and his team are focusing on two proteins found on the surface of meningococcal bacteria that enable these bacteria to latch onto haemoglobin (the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen) in the human body. Meningococcal bacteria can switch these proteins ‘on’ and ‘off’ rapidly by changes in their DNA. However preliminary research suggests that these proteins are switched ‘on’ when meningococci cause disease and therefore that they are needed in order for the bacteria to stay alive inside the human body. They use these proteins to acquire the iron which is vital to their life, since iron is plentiful in haemoglobin.

The research team will look more in-depth at these 2 proteins and investigate several different aspects:

  • whether the proteins are always switched ‘on’ during disease by looking at samples of blood and cerebrospinal fluid (fluid from within the meninges) taken routinely for diagnosis of patients with meningococcal infection
  • whether these proteins are required for the bacteria to multiply in human blood
  • whether our bodies make antibodies against these proteins when meningococci are being carried in the back of the nose and throat
  • whether these proteins can trigger the production of antibodies that kill meningococcal bacteria, and prevent the bacteria from causing disease in rats.
These experiments will provide us with the evidence to propose that these genes should be included in any new meningococcal vaccine.

Why is this important?

Meningococcal B septicaemia and meningitis (MenB) are significant causes of death and disability in the UK and Ireland and worldwide. The most effective way to prevent meningococcal disease is through the use of vaccines. New vaccines are being developed but it is not clear whether these vaccines will be able to prevent disease caused by all the different strains of MenB. There is, therefore, still a need to identify new targets on the bacteria, which can be developed as vaccine components to improve the effectiveness of these vaccines.

Potential outcomes

Dr Bayliss and his team hope to demonstrate that these proteins elicit killing of meningococcal bacteria and protect animals that have been immunised with them, and this evidence will warrant their further development as vaccine candidates. This work is intended to complement on-going meningococcal vaccine research and to arouse commercial interest, resulting in rapid progress towards a vaccine.

Publications and presentations

Two scientific posters relating to this project were shown at the International Pathogenic Neisseria Conference (IPNC) 2012. in Würzburg, Germany in September 2012.

MRF funding support is also acknowledged in a journal paper published in PLOS One in July 2013.

MRF Conference 2011

Both Dr Chris Bayliss and Fadil Bidmos, who is employed on the project, came to our 2011 scientific conference in London.

Fadil also presented a poster on some of their initial results.
Members with researchers Dr Chris Bayliss (second left) and Fadil Bidmos (far right)
Members with researchers Dr Chris Bayliss (second left) and Fadil Bidmos (far right)

Jan 2012 - Members visit

On Wednesday 11th January, several of our members visited Dr Bayliss and his team to find out more about the project.

It was a really fascinating day. Not only was the importance of the work and some of the background to the study explained, but visitors also had a chance to don lab coats and extract DNA from bananas!

You can read more about the day from members Marie Swindells and Jane Kitchin.

Or you can find out about other patient and public involvement and upcoming visits in your local area.

Tilly had amputations as a result of meningococcal septicaemia

Book of Experience

Jenny Dzafic

Meningococcal disease

By this point she was purple from head to foot, she looked like a burns victim.

» Read this story

Virtual Genetics Education Centre

The VGEC centre at University of Leicester aims to help teachers, health professionals and the public understand genetics and formed part of our visit with members in January 2012.
Members having a go at extracting DNA from a banana during our visit in January 2012
Members having a go at extracting DNA from a banana during our visit in January 2012

Target amount


Donated so far


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