New data strengthens case for a meningococcal B vaccine
08 February 2012
Results from a MRF study published this week on 4CMenB (a new meningococcal B vaccine) adds to the weight of evidence which it is hoped will bring about licensure and introduction of this vaccine into the UK schedule.
Dr Barbara Bolgiano who conducted the study at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control at Potter’s Bar, investigated several of the components of 4CMenB, a four-component MenB vaccine developed by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics. In this study she and collaborating scientists from the Health Protection Agency, the University of Warwick and Novartis Vaccines defined the structural stability of one the essential vaccine components, NHBA, so that it will be able to stimulate antibodies that will kill meningococcal B bacteria as part of the vaccine.
This research will also be vital in ensuring that the stability and integrity of all components of the vaccine are maintained during quality control testing if the vaccine is introduced, when millions of doses could be distributed and administered to babies across the country. This will help ensure that all batches of vaccine distributed are safe and protective.
MenB is currently the only form of meningococcal infection in the UK for which there is no vaccine, and MRF estimates that it causes about 1,800 cases of meningitis and septicaemia every year in the UK, mostly in young children. MenB is a major cause of death from infection in children, and can leave survivors with disabilities as severe as brain damage, deafness and amputation.
Gill Edwards (50) from Potters Bar contracted meningitis and septicaemia at the age of 18 and said: “I was struck down with meningitis within hours and spent 3 weeks in Intensive Care and a further month in hospital and it took quite a while for me to get back to normal. As a result of contracting the disease I lost some hearing in my right ear and don’t have a great sense of smell or taste and still after all this time get tired very easily. It’s so important that charities like MRF fund research into this disease and to find a vaccine quickly especially as it affects so many vulnerable groups like babies and young children.”
Professor Christoph Tang, Professor of Cellular Pathology at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at the University of Oxford and chair of the MRF Scientific Advisory Panel said: “This is excellent news in the battle against MenB which is currently the only strain of meningococcal disease for which there is no vaccine. Babies, toddlers and teenagers are most at risk from these diseases. Results coming from the clinical trials offer very exciting prospects for preventing MenB disease in the near future. When a safe and effective Men B vaccine does receive its license, which could be as early as this year, it is essential that Government give it urgent consideration for introduction into the Immunisation Schedule so we can continue our progress toward eliminating meningitis and septicaemia. We must also be aware that this vaccine is unlikely to provide a complete solution to MenB so research must continue and parents should remain vigilant of the symptoms of the disease. “
The National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) at Potter’s Bar is responsible for the testing and standardisation of biological products, including vaccines for the whole of the UK and in certain other countries. NIBSC scientists have an international reputation for excellence in research and are widely consulted on issues of biological medicine safety and efficacy.
Barbara Bolgiano said: “My colleagues and I were pleased to make this contribution to the development of this vaccine, which has been a focus of research for more than a decade. Laboratory-based evaluation of vaccines continues for as long as they are manufactured and used in the clinic.”
The paper will be published in internationally peer-reviewed journal “Vaccine Vol. 30, issue 7, pp. 1330-1342 doi 10.1016/j.vaccine.2011.12, an Elsevier publication. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved