What is this project about?
In 2011, we supported the establishment of a Meningococcal Genome Library (MRF-MGL): a free online resource that provides the complete genetic blueprint of every meningococcus isolated as a cause of meningitis and septicaemia/sepsis in the UK.
The MRF-MGL marked a world first in providing the genetic information for an entire human disease for a whole country and has proved to be a valuable and lifesaving resource, helping to accurately diagnose cases of meningitis, and track changes and emerging threats of meningococcal bacteria.
Following the success of the MRF-MGL, and in recognition of the fact that meningitis is a global issue that urgently needs addressing, we are funding a team of researchers at the University of Oxford to establish a Global Meningitis Genome Library which provides data on the four leading causes of bacterial meningitis: the meningococcus, the pneumococcus, Haemophilus influenzae, and Group B streptococci (GBS), on a global scale.
The project involves collecting genomes from around the world and then processing them to ensure that the library provides accurate and meaningful information which is freely accessible to all. After the first year of the project, over 22,000 genomes had been made available through the GMGL. The database will continue to be developed, and made more interactive to expand its user-ship.
Why is this important?
Through making the genomes available in an understandable, organised and structured way, the information can easily be used by scientists and doctors across the world. Genome data can help inform the design of new treatments, the development of vaccines, assess the impact of vaccines, and promote understanding of how the disease causing bacteria spread between people and evolve over time.
The MRF-MGL enabled researchers to discover that a steep rise in deadly cases of MenW in England and Wales was caused by a particularly harmful 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.