Better Meningitis Vaccine for Infants
New Vaccine Would Extend Infant Protection to Multiple Meningitis Strains
Jan. 8, 2008 -- A new
meningitis vaccine protects infants against multiple strains of a
meningitis bug, not just the single strain in the current infant vaccine.
The finding comes from a British/Canadian clinical trial that tested the new
vaccine in 421 healthy infants.
Meningitis caused by
Neisseria meningitidis bacteria -- or meningococcus -- is often deadly
and frequently devastating. In the U.S., it strikes 1,400 to 2,800 people each
year. Up to 14% of these people die; up to one in five survivors suffers brain
damage, amputation, and/or
Infants younger than 1 year are
the most frequent victims, but disease incidence peaks again during the teen
years. There's now a vaccine that protects against four strains of
meningococcal bacteria. But it doesn't work well in infants, so it's
recommended for use only after age 2 years.
A new vaccine from Novartis protects against four strains of the N.
meningitidis bug, and it works in infants, report University of Oxford
researchers Matthew D. Snape, MBBS, FRACP, and colleagues.
A three-dose schedule of vaccination at ages 2, 3, and 4 months offers at
least 92% protection against all four meningitis strains contained in the
vaccine. A 2-, 4-, and 6-month schedule that fits better with the U.S. child
vaccination schedule was also highly effective. For both schedules, a booster
shot at 12 months appears to be needed for extended protection.
Unfortunately, the new vaccine does not protect against the B serotype of
meningococcal bacteria, which causes about a third of U.S. cases. So far,
medical science has not been able to come up with a vaccine against
meningococcus serotype B.
Even so, the study represents a "major advance in the vaccine prevention
meningococcal disease," says University of Pittsburgh infectious
disease specialist Lee H. Harrison, MD, in an editorial accompanying the Snape
"The outlook for comprehensive global prevention of this devastating
disease has never been better," Harrison writes.
The Snape study, and the Harrison editorial, appear in the Jan. 9/16 issue
of The Journal of the American Medical Association.