In a study funded by Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF), researchers have developed a new approach to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine Bexsero®, which provides protection against different strains of group B meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia (MenB).
Bexsero® was introduced into the UK infant immunisation schedule in September 2015 and has been shown to be highly effective in preventing MenB disease in those vaccinated.
People vaccinated against MenB will produce antibodies against a protein called factor H binding protein (fHbp), which can be found on the surface of most MenB bacteria. If a vaccinated person comes into contact with the MenB bacteria that possess this protein, antibodies will bind to and kill the meningococcal bacteria.
In the new study, published in the academic journal PLOS One, researchers at the University of Leicester and Meningococcal Reference Unit show how a combination of DNA sequences and statistical testing can be used to measure the amounts of fHbp present in meningococcal bacteria of patients who had the disease.
Whenever someone becomes ill with MenB it is important to be able to test whether the strain they are infected with might have been prevented by the vaccine. Currently, it is estimated that the vaccine offers protection against 73-88% of strains responsible for meningococcal disease in England and Wales.
The approach is being assessed by Public Health England for its potential to routinely test all meningococcal disease cases.
The research was based on looking at one of the four antigens that make up the vaccine. More work is needed to look at the remaining three antigens.