Why is this important?
In recent years, the genome sequence has been used as a starting block for developing novel vaccines. This includes the most advanced MenB vaccine candidate so far, which had a single bacterial genome as the starting point for its development.
However, since no single strain predominates in patients, who can be infected with many different strains, whenever a promising vaccine candidate is identified, it is essential to determine how widely it is present in all disease-causing bacteria. This is especially tricky with the meningococcus, which is a master of disguise and can change its surface structures to avoid our immune system and potential vaccines. This is known as ‘vaccine escape’ and requires extensive investigation. But our library will save thousands of research hours by helping scientists to plot the changes in bacteria since 2010/11 – which in turn makes it easier to find solutions.
The Library will also help identify the proportion of meningococcal strains a vaccine will cover and test the feasibility of using whole genome sequencing for routine typing, a subject of international importance.
How bacterial DNA collected from people with meningococcal disease becomes genomic data for the Library. Diagram courtesy of Dorothea Hill at Oxford University.
The project will produce an online, open-access database that any researcher in the world can use and update. Data from the library will be used by researchers to investigate meningococcal genetics in greater detail.
This library will be an international hub for meningococcal genomic information and represents a world first in providing the genome sequences for a whole epidemiological year of meningococcal isolates.
"My lab is interested in developing new approaches to meningitis vaccines. The MRF Meningococcus Genome Library is a valuable new resource, and we anticipate making extensive use of it for our research in the future”. Professor Jeremy Derrick, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, UK
"The MRF meningococcus genome library is an essential resource enabling researchers from around the world to understand the epidemiology of the meningococcus. This initiative is an exciting example of the public commitment to support research into finding a means of eradicating invasive meningococcal disease in the community. Not only does this library provide researchers with a snapshot of the genetic diversity and flexibility of the meningococcus in the short term, but with time, will provide insight into the longitudinal diversity of this pathogen and the response it has to the release of Bexsero, to control serogroup B meningococcal disease.”Dr Charlene Kahler, Senior Lecturer, School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, The University of Western Australia
Gina Weston talks to Meningitis Research Foundation about losing two children to meningitis and septicaemia
Merseyside supports the Library
We were delighted to receive a generous donation of £41,410 from the Meningitis Merseyside Support Group towards the MRF Meningococcus Genome Library. Read the full story
Launching the project
We announced the new Library to the global scientific community at IPNC, the International Pathogenic Neisseria Conference
, in Germany in September 2012.
It has also been launched to the scientific community and media. You can read the press release here.
November 2012 update – Library is extended to another year of meningococci
In addition to bacteria from the 2010/11 epidemiological year, bacterial DNA from 2011/12 will now also be sequenced and added to the Library. This will enable scientists to see how the bacteria vary and change across two different years.
Epidemiological years run from one summer to the next so the Library will now include bacterial DNA from Summer 2010 to Summer 2012.
“The Meningococcus Genome Library is an invaluable resource for the scientific and public health community. The availability of whole genome sequences from an entire epidemiologic year is unprecedented. In addition to providing genomic data for investigations of vaccine targets, researchers will be able to investigate meningococcal molecular epidemiology, genetics, and evolution. I anticipate substantial scientific advances as a result of the Library.”
Lee H. Harrison, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, USA