Global Meningitis Genome Partnership

Establishing a co-ordinated approach to collecting and sharing global genomic data for the leading causes of bacterial meningitis.

Meningitis is a devastating disease that represents a major global health challenge. Bacterial meningitis has a high death rate, and many people who recover face lifelong disability. The epidemic potential of meningitis is also a major cause for concern given the catastrophic impact on health systems, the economy and society as a whole, especially in low-income countries.
The introduction of successful immunisation programmes against three of the main bacterial causes of meningitis has enabled major progress in the fight against meningitis, sepsis, and pneumonia.
Despite this, progress still lags substantially behind that of other infectious diseases: according to a recent estimate, between 1990 and 2016, child meningitis deaths fell by just 21%, compared to 93% for measles, 91% for tetanus and 58% for diarrhoea.
There therefore remains much to be done in order to sustainably reduce the burden of disease around the world in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What role can genomics play in defeating meningitis?

Genomic surveillance, which uses cutting-edge technology to study the genetic make-up of meningitis-causing bacteria, is essential for effective disease control globally. It enables prompt identification of emerging strains and supports public health interventions, such as tracking and tracing, and the development and deployment of vaccines.

But while there has been a rise in the use of whole genome sequencing, it’s mainly been driven by a small group of countries who have the capacity and resources to do so. As a result, current genome collections are not fully representative of the global meningitis picture.

Global capacity to participate in surveillance urgently needs to be expanded, particularly in resource poor settings that experience large numbers of meningitis cases.
In light of this, we are working with a group of international experts, including representatives of existing genome libraries and global health partners, to establish a Global Meningitis Genome Partnership (GMGP) that links resources for the four leading causes of bacterial meningitis.

We are supporting researchers at the University of Oxford to expand global meningitis genome collections. Read more about this project here.
Establishing a Global Meningitis Genome Partnership
 The establishment of the Partnership is an integral part of the new WHO Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030. Developed by a World Health Organization-led task force, the Roadmap offers the ideal opportunity to create a new vision for the role that whole genome sequencing can play in defeating meningitis, particularly through improving the global surveillance of the leading causes of bacterial meningitis.

The bacteria that cause meningitis can rapidly travel the globe, therefore gathering genetic information from across the world is vital to defeating it.

The Partnership will enable the impacts of whole genome sequencing to be delivered through supporting international co-ordination of strain identification and tracking, encouraging wider international participation, and enabling the public benefits of genetic sequencing to be delivered.
Next steps
An expert steering group, which includes representatives from the, Institut Patseur, MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Public Health England, University College London, University of Oxford, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Wellcome Sanger Insitute and the World Health Organization has been established to guide progress of the Partnership, and important next steps will include:
  • developing guidelines on open-access sharing of the data to ensure that it is made freely accessible to all
  • ensuring that the data is accompanied by meaningful information so users can understand where the sample was derived from
  • identifying which countries are missing from existing libraries, particularly those with a large burden of meningitis, so that they can be included
  • facilitating development of user-friendly interfaces that represent publicly available data in a way that people can understand.

A scientific paper which describes the aims and objectives of the partnership is freely available here:

This work is being supported by GSK, Pfizer and Sanofi. This work is undertaken independently and funders have no influence on its conduct. This website is operated independently and funders have no editorial control over its contents.

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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).
We call for positive change as a united voice against meningitis and septicaemia, and a dedicated champion for those it affects.
We've invested nearly £20 million into meningitis research since 1989. Now, we're looking back at our most incredible achievements so far.
Give researchers the clues to help defeat meningitis
Give researchers the clues to help defeat meningitis
£160/€190/$214 decodes the genetic information in a sample of meningococcal bacteria. This information helps us to track new forms of meningitis and campaign to introduce new vaccines.
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Liz Rodgers
Research Projects Manager

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

If you’d like to know more about this area of MRF's work, do get in touch.

Tel: 0333 405 6258