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Meningitis fighting to survive

Meningitis UK has revealed that a new study shows that a single genetic gene of the deadly disease bacteria can adapt, protecting itself against being killed off by the body's immune system
Meningitis UK has revealed that a new study shows that a single genetic gene of the deadly disease bacteria can adapt, protecting itself against being killed off by the body's immune system.

A research team led by Professor Christoph Tang at the Centre for Molecular Microbiology and Infection at Imperial College London identified three strains of meningitis C that have acquired enhanced resistance against antibodies created after vaccination.

Steve Dayman, chief executive of Meningitis UK, explained that the study's findings are important in highlighting just how effective the disease bacteria are at adapting to the effects of vaccines and that new strains can often emerge to replace dying ones.

"Meningitis bacteria have a remarkable capacity to respond to new environments and adapt to new pressures in order to survive," he said.

The charity group has called for further work to be done to research and develop more vaccines to prevent and treat meningitis, which claims the lives of 300 people every year. There were 2,168 cases of all forms of the disease recorded in the UK during 2007.

"We believe the only way to eradicate meningitis completely is through the development of a preventative vaccine," said Dayman.

"There is still a long way to go before the disease can be eradicated completely and this latest development just shows how vital it is that research continues."

Despite calls for further investigation into the issue, the current meningitis C vaccine has proved successful since its introduction into the childhood immunisation programme in 1999. It is estimated that the vaccine has reduced the number of meningitis C cases in children by 95 per cent.

The Department of Health in the UK reported that there were no deaths among people under 19-years-old during 2007.

6th June 2008

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