NHS to recruit 24,000 teens in meningitis vaccine bid

The NHS is attempting to recruit 24,000 teenagers in a bid to test the first new vaccines for adolescents against the most common form of meningitis following a public outcry.Recent breakthroughs have offered up two new candidate drugs which scientists believe will provide near total protection from meningitis B.However, by testing them on such a large cohort they also want to establish if the drugs are capable of preventing the spread of the potentially deadly bacteria from protected to unprotected teens, thereby building ‘herd immunisation’.A meningitis B vaccine for babies was introduced in 2015, following a series of deaths, and initial research suggests rates of infections subsequently reduced by almost half.While vaccines for other forms of the disease exist for teenagers, currently there are none against meningitis B.

The disease develops from bacteria in the throat, which inflames the membranes surrounding the brain, which can cause fatal or long-lasting damage.At around 140 cases a year, the condition is rare but, once infected, teenagers have roughly 10 per cent chance of death.In 2016 more than 400,000 people signed a petition calling for all children to be given a meningitis vaccine, following the death of two-year-old Faye Burdett, whose mother posted pictures of her fighting for her life.All 16 to 18-year-olds taking part in the study will receive two doses of one of the new vaccines, 8,000 in the 4CMenB (Bexsero) arm, with the same number taking MenB-fHBP (Trumbenba).A further 8,000 will act as a control group and not be given the vaccine.Throat swabs will be taken 12 months apart to assess to what extent they are carrying the bacteria.Dr Matthew Snape, from the University of Oxford’s Vaccine Groups, said: “Participants will not only get a vaccine that reduces their risk of meningitis but also help us understand if we can prevent the bug being carried and potentially spread to others.”Participants are being recruited through schools in 14 towns and cities in England, Scotland and Wales.

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