Two of the UK’s leading meningitis charities, Meningitis UK and Meningitis Research Foundation, have teamed up to fund a pioneering study into the impact of meningococcal disease – the leading cause of meningitis and septicaemia in the UK.
The project which launches on New Year’s Day is being led by Dr Shamez Ladhani at the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in London. It will deploy improved surveillance systems to examine the true picture of the burden of meningococcal disease so, armed with this comprehensive understanding, future vaccines can be more effectively evaluated and implemented.
In a UK first, the project will combine and analyse four national data sources of meningococcal disease cases in England: laboratory data from the Meningococcal Reference Unit and HPA infectious disease surveillance records, data from the Office for National Statistics and Hospital Episode Statistics data.
Dr Ladhani, an infectious diseases specialist said: “We need to utilise all available data sources to help define the burden of the disease in the UK more accurately. This study will provide invaluable information on how to best utilise the new meningococcal vaccines that are currently in late-phase clinical trials.”
It is hoped the study will then be extended to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so scientists can gain a greater understanding in the UK as a whole.
Meningitis UK chief executive Kate Rowland said: “The innovative study will give scientists and the charities a much greater understanding of meningococcal disease.
“This vital information will better inform all future vaccine research and can immensely reduce the time they take to reach the public and therefore start saving lives.
“The vision is to expand the study to give a picture across the UK.
“Armed with the results, we can better fight the disease to protect future generations from the pain of losing a loved one.”
Linda Glennie, Head of Research and Medical Information at Meningitis Research Foundation said: “To make decisions about introducing new vaccines we need to know the actual burden of disease -- up to now we have relied on estimates that show trends but do not account for all cases. Vaccines can cut healthcare and treatment costs as well as preventing death and disability and information from this study will provide a basis for predicting vaccine impact. This is especially timely, as the European Medicines Agency has now given a positive opinion for licensure of the first MenB vaccine.
“In the past century, vaccines have saved more lives than any other health intervention. Research to improve knowledge of these terrible diseases and enable prevention through vaccines is well worth investing in. That’s why our supporters continue to fundraise for research with real long-term impact like this one.”
For more information on Meningitis UK, to donate or for a free symptoms information pack, please call 0117 947 6320 or visit www.meningitisuk.org.
For more information on Meningitis Research Foundation to donate or for a free symptoms information pack, please call 01454-280401 or visit www.meningitis.org