Students invited to 'be on the TEAM' with meningitis vaccine study

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Infectious disease specialists in Southampton are working with young people across Hampshire to potentially shape the future of routine teenage meningitis vaccinations in the UK.

Professor Saul Faust, director of the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility, and his team are travelling to colleges around the county to vaccinate sixth-form students aged 16 to 19. Each student will be immunised against meningitis B, the most common cause of meningococcal disease in the age group, with one of two licensed vaccines.

Risks of meningitis

Meningitis is a rare but life-threatening infection that develops around the protective membranes on the surface of the brain and the spinal cord. Caused by the meningococcus bacteria, the infection can cause permanent damage to the brain and nerves. It is most commonly caught by babies, children, teenagers and young adults.

Around 10% of teenagers carry the meningococcus bacteria in the back of their nose without it causing any symptoms but, if the bacteria invade the bloodstream, it causes symptoms like high temperatures, sickness, headaches, rashes and seizures. If left untreated, bacterial meningitis can lead to potentially causing fatal blood poisoning called septicaemia.

MenB vaccine

The study is investigating if immunising teenagers against meningitis B can reduce the amount of teens carrying the bacteria in their throat and nose. Each participant will be given one of two vaccines, which are both approved and available privately, although not currently offered as part of the UK immunisation schedule.

“The vaccine is already routinely given to babies at two, four and 12 months of age in the UK and used widely in the USA among students going to college and university,” said Prof Faust, who is also a consultant in paediatric immunology and infectious diseases at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

“We now need to know more about the effect of immunisation in this age group to help inform future decisions made on its inclusion in the routine immunisation schedule.”

Researchers will collect throat samples and compare carriage rates of the bacteria, before and after vaccinations. If less teens are carrying the bacteria after being immunised, it could mean profound changes to vaccination courses in the future. Immunisation for meningitis B would not only help protect teens against potentially deadly diseases, but also babies, children and older adults, who would be less likely to be exposed to the bacteria.

The study, which is being carried out at 15 sites across the UK, is being co-ordinated by the Oxford Vaccine Group and funded by the National Institute for Health Research and Public Health England.

Anyone interested in taking part in the study can contact the research team on 023 8120 4989, by email at uhs.recruitmentcrf@nhs.net or via beontheteam.web.ox.ac.uk for more information.

Posted on Wednesday 31 October 2018