September 2021 marks ten years since the establishment of the Meningococcus Genome Library. Commissioned by Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF), this world-first online resource provides the complete genetic blueprint of over 5,000 meningococci isolated from UK patients over the past 10 years.
To mark the occasion, the Oxford Martin School will be hosting a virtual and in-person workshop September 17th 2021 to highlight the continuing importance of the Meningococcus Genome Library. The ‘Meningitis Research Foundation Meningococcus Genome Library’ (MRF-MGL) was commissioned to help scientists from around the world develop and test vaccines for meningococcal infections. The library proved its worth shortly after inception, identifying that the steep rise in cases of MenW meningitis 2008-2014 was attributable to a hypervirulent type of meningococcal bacteria called ST-11.
The MRF-MGL could prove that this was the same strain which had caused epidemics of meningitis in Argentina, Brazil and Chile, thus leading to the emergency introduction of the MenACWY vaccine for teenagers in England and Wales. The emergency vaccine was immediately effective. There were 69% fewer cases of MenW than predicted in the year following the vaccine’s introduction, and cases have continued to drop steadily ever since.* Without the MRF-MGL, researchers would not have been able to identify the virulent sequence type so quickly, enabling them to make a compelling case for the urgent roll-out of the MenACWY vaccine.
The Meningococcus Genome Library remains an invaluable resource. As a world-first international hub for meningococcal genome information, it has paved the way for the introduction of a global meningitis genome library. The achievements of the MRF-MGL will be highlighted at the ’10 Years of the Meningitis Research Foundation Meningococcal Genome Library’ event September 17th 2021, hosted by the Oxford Martin School (University of Oxford).
Funded by Meningitis Research Foundation, the ‘Meningitis Research Foundation Meningococcal Genome Library’ is developed by Public Health England, the University of Oxford and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and is embedded within the PubMLST.org platform.
*Most recent data from 2018/19 shows 113 recorded cases of MenW, following 225 in 2016/17.