Eradicating meningitis

Derek Solomon (11 AM Micro) wrote this article summarizing the current effort to eradicate meningitis. He found this via this article on Science Daily, with supplementary material from Pubmed.

Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.  The most common cause of this disease is when viral infections go untreated for an extended period of time.  Symptoms of this disease are severe headaches, nausea, and stiff neck.   Signs of this disease are fever and fast heart rate.  Early diagnosis and treatment is essential for the ability to recover from this disease without any permanent neurological damage.

The disease, Meningitis, may be a thing in the past according to Dominique Caugant, Chief Scientist at the Norwegian Institiute of Public Health.  A new vaccine that has been developed has proven to have the ability to completely rid the world of the disease.  The purpose of the vaccine is to eliminate the epidemic caused by serogroup-A miningococci bacteria in the “meningitis belt.”  The countries this pertains to are that south of the Sahara desert, from Senegal to Ethiopia in the east.  The medical name for this vaccine is MenAfriVac and costs no more than $0.50.

Sources state that there are about a half a million cases of meningitis per year around the world.  This equals to about one in ten individuals being inflicted and dying from the disease.  “Existing vaccines have not been good enough to prevent the occurrence of large-scale epidemics in Africa,” states Caugant.

One of the first countries to receive the new vaccine was Burkina Faso.  Throughout the country, those ages one to 29 were given the vaccine within a few weeks, which were almost 12 million people.  It is reported that there are about 1,000 cases of Meningitis per week and have been as many as 8,000 cases in one week.  Caugant informs, “Six months after the successful introduction of the vaccine, only four cases of the serogroup-A meningococcal disease had been reported—all of them unvaccinated individuals.”  Besides the vaccine being distributed in Burkina Faso, it is also being distributed to Mali and Niger.

This particular project would not be possible without funding from various sources because of the large amount of individuals it is aiding.  A primary funder of the vaccine was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  To fund the Norwegian aspect of this project, the Research Council of Norway’s Programme for Global Health and Vaccination Research (GLOBVAC) aided in the costs.

The Meningitis vaccine provides herd immunity to those who have not been vaccinated.  Professor Caugant states, “Preliminary results suggest that there have been substantially fewer serogroup-A carriers after the vaccination campaign, meaning the vaccine provides what is called herd immunity.”  Herd immunity is when unvaccinated parts of a population are protected indirectly because those surrounding them are protected from the disease.

This vaccine proves to the world the advancement in the minds of today’s medical professionals and the ways in which they develop medications.  With the mass distribution of this vaccine, there will be many lives saved, as proved with statistics stated earlier, and will lead to the breakthrough of other possible vaccinations.  All in all, this vaccine development proves that microbiology is affecting many aspects of our world and will continue to be a prominent aspect of future medical endeavors.

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About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on November 12, 2011, in Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Eradicating meningitis.

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