Could vaccinating teenagers unlock whole population protection against MenB?

A pilot study to inform a national study to find out whether the MenB vaccine appears to prevent teenagers carrying bacteria in the back of the nose and throat.
Prof Adam Finn, Dr Hannah Christensen, Dr Jennifer Oliver, Dr Peter Muir, Ms Begonia Morales-Aza, Dr Caroline Trotter.
Start Date
01 Jul 2017
University of Bristol, Bristol, UK, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK


Currently the MenB vaccine is only offered to babies under one year of age. But it is teenagers that unknowingly carry and spread meningococcal bacteria more than any other age group. This means that vaccinating teenagers may be a more effective and affordable way of protecting the whole population.

For the MenB vaccine to be offered to teenagers, there must be proof that it stops the bacteria from being carried in the back of the nose and throat.

We don’t yet know whether the MenB vaccine affects the carriage of bacteria. But after successful campaigning by MRF and others, the government agreed to fund a national study that will definitively answer this question. 

For this large-scale study to provide clear answers, we need to understand how it should best be run.

About the project

We are supporting researchers at the University of Bristol to provide these initial answers.

The original study recruited 433 Bristol students from participating 6th form centres. Each student had 2 doses of the MenB vaccine, at least one month apart, and was followed up for about 6 months. To examine bacterial carriage, throat swabs were taken at the time vaccines were given, and 3-6 months after the 2nd dose. Saliva samples were taken weekly.

Approximately 3,500 saliva samples and more than 800 throat swabs were collected. 

The researchers are now analysing these samples with a technique that will rapidly reveal the presence or absence and number of meningococcal bacteria. They will then undertake further detailed analysis of the bacteria they find.

What will this achieve?

From this study the researchers hope to understand:

  • The feasibility of conducting vaccine research in schools
  • Whether repeated saliva sampling offers a more convenient and acceptable way of assessing bacterial carriage compared to more conventionally used throat swabs.
  • Whether the MenB vaccine appears to affect carriage

If repeated saliva sampling is shown to be effective, it may be included in the large scale study to increase the chance of discovering whether or not the MenB vaccine can reduce the carriage and transmission of bacteria and protect the whole population.

Since the charity was founded in 1989, we have awarded 161 research grants. The total value of our investment in vital scientific research is over £19.1 million (€24.7 million).
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Liz Rodgers
Research Projects Manager

Hi, I’m Liz and I’m MRF's Research Projects Manager.

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