New research recently published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases shows that the new MenB vaccine Bexsero (routinely offered to UK infants since September 2015) should provide additional protection against a particularly harmful strain of MenW (called ST-11).
The MenW ST-11 strain has caused a year-on-year increase in cases of meningococcal disease (meningitis and septicaemia) in England since 2009 and is associated with severe illness and a higher death rate than other strains (13% fatality compared to 5-10%). Cases due to this strain nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015.
Such was the concern about this rapid rise that the government introduced a programme in August 2015 (which is still ongoing throughout the UK) for teenagers from the age of 13-18 to be given a one off vaccine to protect them from the disease.
In this latest research, scientists from Public Health England have used Meningitis Research Foundation’s open access Meningococcus Genome Library to study the genes of all MenW ST-11 bacteria that caused disease in England and Wales between 1st July 2010 and 30th June 2013. Results showed that the bacteria possess versions of two proteins (known as antigens) which are very similar to those contained in the Bexsero vaccine. Therefore, the immune system of babies immunised with Bexsero should quickly recognise invading MenW ST-11 bacteria as harmful and kill them.
Furthermore, the researchers found that blood taken from children immunised with Bexsero was able to kill MenW ST-11 bacteria, whereas blood taken from children before immunisation with Bexsero was not.
Linda Glennie, Head of Research and Medical Information at MRF said: “We are delighted that our Genome Library has been instrumental in establishing that Bexsero could offer additional protection against MenW ST-11 for infants.
Although MenACWY vaccination of adolescents (the age group most likely to carry meningococcal bacteria) should help protect the whole population from this particularly harmful strain by reducing transmission, it will take some time to establish this. It’s hoped that Bexsero will offer additional protection against MenW ST-11 for babies as well as preventing MenB, so the results of this recent laboratory study are encouraging. We look forward to seeing the real life impact of Bexsero vaccination on MenW disease.”
For further information on the MenB vaccine please go to www.meningitis.org/menb or to see more on MenW visit: www.meningitis.org/MenW