Meningitis vaccine tackles epidemic which plagued Africa for a century
The vaccine, called MenAfriVac, is able to protect Africa’s 21-country ‘meningitis belt’ from epidemic A meningococcal disease.
The new study, undertaken by the African Meningococcal Carriage Consortium and published in The Lancet, measured the effect of MenAfriVac on the spread of meningitis when compared to unvaccinated regions during an epidemic.
The researchers discovered that, by giving all 1-29 year olds in three regions of Chad a shot of the vaccine, it significantly reduced incidence of all cases of meningitis by 94 per cent, and carriage prevalence of the epidemic strain dwindled by 98 per cent.
In unvaccinated parts of Chad, however, the epidemic persisted.
Lead author Professor Brian Greenwood from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine explained the importance of the study; “Before this study, mass vaccination campaigns in countries such as Burkina Faso had shown MenAfriVac to be safe and highly effective, resulting in the lowest number of confirmed meningitis A cases in over a decade”, he said.
“But in Burkina Faso the vaccine was introduced at a time of falling incidence rates and decreasing transmission, potentially enhancing its true effect and making it difficult to study the vaccine’s impact.”
Deadly epidemics of meningitis A are frequent in Africa’s so-called ‘meningitis belt’, a band of 21 sub-Saharan countries which extends from Senegal to Ethiopia. It is estimated that around 450 million people are at risk.
Greenwood added, “While our findings support the continuing roll-out of this vaccine across the African meningitis belt, continuing surveillance and further carriage studies in countries of the African meningitis belt will be needed to confirm the duration of protection provided by this vaccine.”
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