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New meningitis vaccine could be introduced in two years

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Final tests are taking place on a new vaccine that could protect against one of the most common causes of bacterial meningitis.

Scientists are in the final stages of evaluating a vaccine that could protect against 80% of meningococcal serogroup B strains, delegates heard at the Health Protection Agency annual conference at Warwick University today.

The HPA, the Department of Paediatrics at Oxford University and experts at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital have been evaluating the vaccine, developed by Novartis Medicines.

If trials are successful, the MenB vaccine could be ready to immunise children within two or three years.

Dr. Jamie Findlow, from the Vaccine Evaluation Unit at the HPA's North West Regional Laboratory in Manchester, told delegates: 'Phases I and II of the clinical trials have been successfully completed, proving that the vaccine is safe and that it stimulates the immune systems of infants when administered at 2, 4 and 6 months of age.'

The serogroup B strain causes around 90% of the 1,800 cases of meningococcal infection recorded in Britain each year and is responsible for 180 deaths annually.

A similar vaccine against meningococcal serogroup C has saved approximately 500 lives since its introduction to the childhood immunisation programme in 1999.

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