July 2018 marks the 70th birthday of the National Health Service. As part of the celebrations, the NHS’s I Am Research campaign highlights the research achievements that have improved health and care over the past 70 years, and shows how the work of National Institute for Health Research is helping to shape the future. Drawing on suggestions of experts from across the NIHR, the campaign presents 70 discoveries that have been the most transformative for both the NHS and its patients.
The Department of Paediatrics is very pleased that the Meningitis B vaccination programme featured among the 70 discoveries – particularly since the Oxford Vaccine Group administered the very first paediatric dose of the vaccine!
Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, and can lead to meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). Meningitis B accounts for about 90% of meningococcal infections in the UK, each year there are between 500 and 1700 cases. It can affect all age groups, but the rates of disease are highest in children under five years of age, and most cases are seen in babies under the age of one. It is also often seen in teenagers aged between 15 and 19.
Introduction of the Meningitis B vaccination programme has seen cases in infants aged one or less drop by 42%. Currently Oxford Vaccine Group is leading another a study aimed at an older age group, investigating whether giving a MenB vaccine to teenagers reduces carriage of this bacteria, potentially providing protection to all ages from this dangerous infection.