Celebrating a decade of genetic discoveries for meningitis: the MRF-Meningococcal Genome Library

08 Mar 2021
Celebrating a decade of genetic discoveries for meningitis: the MRF-Meningococcal Genome Library
Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is celebrating ten years since the conception of the MRF-Meningococcal Genome Library (MGL). This ground breaking resource was designed to provide the complete genetic blueprint of every meningococcus isolated as a cause of meningitis and septicaemia in the UK since July 2010.

Established under the leadership of Prof Chris Tang at the University of Oxford, as a collaboration between the Maiden laboratory at the University of Oxford, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and Public Health England Meningococcal Reference Unit, the vision was to create a long-lasting tool for the scientific community. A key part of achieving this was ensuring that the library remained freely available to all.

Over a decade later, the library has established itself as an invaluable resource that continues to be used by scientists and doctors across the globe. Over 5,000 meningococcal genomes have now been sequenced, allowing changes and emerging threats from meningococcal bacteria to be tracked and appropriate responses initiated.
Soon after its establishment, the MRF-MGL demonstrated its capacity for transformative impact: enabling researchers to show that a steep rise in deadly cases of MenW in England and Wales was caused by a particularly harmful new strain of bacteria originating in South America. In response, the UK introduced an emergency MenACWY vaccination programme for teenagers, stopping this deadly strain in its tracks and reducing the further spread of disease.


‘At the time that the MRF-MGL was commissioned, nothing on this scale had ever been attempted for meningitis, or for any other human disease. Over the last decade, the MRF-MGL has proven to be a life-saving resource, that has brought to light linkages between cases in outbreaks, and promoted understanding of how the bacteria can spread between people and evolve over time. For example, the MRF-MGL played a key part in tracing the origins of a MenW outbreak following the World Scout Jamboree in Japan in 2015. We look forward to seeing the further impacts that the next decade of meningitis genomics will bring.’ - Linda Glennie, MRF Director of Research

The success of the MRF-MGL has paved the way to developing a Global Meningitis Genome Library, which will provide data on the four leading causes of bacterial meningitis, on a global scale.  As part of the WHO led Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030 we have also been working with leading experts to establish a Global Meningitis Genome Partnership. The Partnership aims to encourage new countries to participate in sequencing, using the resources of the GMGL to understand and manage meningitis, and thereby enable worldwide co-ordination of strain identification and tracking, control of epidemics, and vaccine evaluation and development.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world how crucial genome sequencing is in controlling a deadly disease that knows no borders.

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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
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