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Liverpool scientists in meningitis research

25 July 2005

Over a number of years we have seen meningitis epidemics in Africa causing tens of thousands of lives to be lost. Ethiopia is often ravaged by epidemic meningitis and famine. Scientists at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine have spent the last two years collecting data there in which they hope will help predict when and where epidemics of meningitis will occur and the best use of vaccines.

The three-year research project, costing nearly £300,000, is being funded by Meningitis Research Foundation, a national charity fighting to prevent death and disability resulting from meningitis and septicaemia, the blood poisoning form of the disease.

As well as studying a number of local factors including climate and population, the data collected included types of bacteria responsible for epidemics and levels of carriage of the different meningococcal bacteria, which cause most cases of meningitis in Africa.

Dr Luis Cuevas, who is running the project, said: "We hope that by studying elements such as the area's climate, population, village distribution, health facilities and previous epidemics, we will be able to develop a finely tuned model that will enable prevention of epidemics by targeted vaccine campaigns."

Denise Vaughan, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation said: "We are delighted to be funding this research project which has the potential to predict when and where meningitis epidemics are likely to occur in parts of Africa. This will enable prevention and treatment strategies to be put in place, thereby saving lives."

In the last year of the project researchers will focus on the laboratory characterisation of the bacteria collected in the field and the development of an enhanced detailed model for Ethiopia.

Further information about the work of Meningitis Research Foundation or about meningitis and septicaemia, can be obtained from the Foundation's Freefone 24 hour helpline - 080 8800 3344.

Read more about this project

Research archive for the public - An enhanced small-scale model for predicting meningitis epidemics in Africa

Research archive for the scientific community - Environmental and epidemiologic determinants of epidemic meningitis at local level

Media Contacts:

Julia Warren on 01454 281811 or 07711 057885 (Meningitis Research Foundation)
Dr Luis Cuevas on 0151 705 3219 (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine)