2 Vaccines Help Cut Bacteria That Cause Meningitis, Study Finds

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TUESDAY, Aug. 19, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Two new vaccines can reduce the spread of meningitis by reducing the number of meningitis-causing bacteria that people carry, according to a new study.

Researchers tested the two vaccines -- MenACWY-CRM and 4CMenB -- on volunteers aged 18 to 24. MenACWY-CRM cut meningitis-causing bacteria populations in the nose and throat by 39 percent and 4CMenB lowered those populations by 20 to 30 percent.

The findings, published online Aug. 19 in The Lancet, could change the way that new vaccines are made in the future, according to study leader Dr. Robert Read, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.

"The standard practice is to vaccinate with the aim of inducing high levels of antibodies in the blood to protect against the disease, but we know that these antibodies can disappear over the course of a few months," Read said in a university news release.

"This study is telling us that the vaccines also have an effect on carriage in the throat and explains why they can be so effective across the population," he added.

Meningitis is an infection of the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis-causing bacteria are common and carried harmlessly in the nose and throat of about 10 percent of people. The bacteria can be passed from person to person through close contact. Anyone can develop meningitis, but infants and young children are at greatest risk, according to background information in the news release.

"This is a significant piece of work in helping more and more people be protected from meningitis. We have shown that vaccines modify the way the bacteria are carried, so even when the antibodies are no longer present in the blood, the carriage in the throat is still prevented, and so is onward transmission of the infection to others," Read explained.

"This could provide a degree of herd protection against meningitis if implemented in a campaign in which high transmission occurs, for example in teenagers and young adults," he noted.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about meningitis.