Meningitis shot boosts immunity in infants: study
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A new type of meningitis vaccine boosted the immunity of infants as young as six months, offering a potential new weapon against this deadly disease, British and Canadian researchers said on Tuesday.
The vaccine, made by Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG, is aimed at four of the most common strains of meningococcal meningitis, a potentially fatal bacterial disease involving inflammation of membranes around the brain and spinal cord. It primarily affects babies, particularly those aged 3 to 12 months.
An older vaccine currently licensed in the United States offers poor protection for infants, who are most at risk, according to Matthew Snape of Britain's University of Oxford.
"This vaccine offers the hope that the number of young children experiencing this devastating illness can be dramatically reduced," Snape said in an e-mail.
In research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Snape and colleagues studied the safety and effectiveness of the new vaccine, called MenACWY, in 421 healthy infants in Britain and Canada.
The vaccine targets four serogroups of bacterial meningitis: A, C, Y and W-135.
Children in the study received one of three different dosing schedules or a jab from a vaccine targeting only meningitis C.
The vaccine boosted immunity to all four strains in the three different dosing groups, but the less frequent dosing groups had less protection against serogroup A.
At least 92 percent of infants who received the vaccine at two, three and four months developed antibodies to all four strains of meningitis.
The researchers said the study showed the vaccine boosted immunity in infancy but was not large enough to prove the vaccine was safe.
Dr. Lee Harrison of the University of Pittsburgh said in a commentary that it will be important to track how long immunity lasts. That would help determine whether a booster dose is needed before the shot currently given in adolescence.
The vaccine, also called Menveo, is currently in several late-stage trials and Novartis, which funded the study, has said it aims to make regulatory submissions in 2008.
Sanofi-Aventis in October won U.S. regulatory approval for a similar vaccine called Menactra for children aged 2-10.
(Editing by Maggie Fox and Cynthia Osterman)