WHO eases rules on meningitis vaccine, researchers say

November 15, 2012

In a breakthrough for the fight against meningitis in poor countries, researchers say the WHO has ruled that a key vaccine can be transported or stored for up to four days without refrigeration.

The previously-approved vaccine is aimed at helping in the so-called " Belt," which stretches across the African Sahel from to Ethiopia, where epidemics of the deadly infection regularly break out.

In these countries, where reliable electricity is rare, especially in , assuring that the low-cost vaccine can be stored safely without will vastly improve vaccination campaigns, researchers say.

Called MenAfriVac and made by the Indian company Institute, the vaccine costs less than 50 cents a dose and, according to the latest research, can be conserved without any refrigeration, even an icepack, at temperatures up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) for four days.

"Reaching the millions of children in last mile communities like those in rural continues to challenge us," said Dr. Orin Levine, director of at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"The potential for some vaccines to remain safely outside the cold chain for short periods of time has been widely known for over 20 years," said Michel Zaffran, director of a nonprofit collaboration with the WHO aimed at improving immunization systems and technologies.

"We expect this announcement to build momentum" for testing other vaccines for storage without refrigeration, he said.

The findings, from a study of the vaccine carried out by Health Canada and confirmed by the World Health Organization Vaccines Pre-Qualification Program and the Drugs Controller General of India—were unveiled Wednesday at a conference in Atlanta.

Other research presented there showed that the vaccine has been effective in reducing meningitis A in Burkina Faso, the first country to introduce the vaccine, in 2010.

Just two years later, the bacteria that causes meningitis A had been eliminated, not only in those who received the vaccine, but in others around them, said Marie-Pierre Preziosi, director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project.

"Our findings show that the bacteria causing meningitis A have disappeared from the noses and throats of those too old or too young to have received the vaccine, resulting from a phenomenon known as 'herd immunity,'" she said.

"And we can also show that after introduction in Burkina Faso, we saw the lowest level of epidemic meningitis in 15 years," added Preziosi, the lead author of the study, which will appear in Clinical Infection Diseases.

Meningitis A is a bacterial infection that affects the membrane of the brain.

It can cause brain lesions and has a 50 percent fatality rate when left untreated, according to the WHO.

Viral meningitis is generally less severe, with most patients fully recovering on their own within a week or two.

Explore further: Meningitis A vaccine breaks barrier: First to gain approval to travel outside cold chain

Related Stories

Meningitis A vaccine breaks barrier: First to gain approval to travel outside cold chain

November 14, 2012
Signaling a potential breakthrough for immunization programs in resource-poor countries, researchers today announced at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) conference that regulatory authorities—after ...

A new strategy for developing meningitis vaccines

May 24, 2012
Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the meninges, the protective membrane that covers the spinal cord and brain. Children, elderly patients and immunocompromised patients are at a higher risk for the development of severe ...

Dramatic fall in cases of meningitis A in 3 west African nations after new vaccine introduction

June 9, 2011
Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger report the lowest number of confirmed meningitis A cases ever recorded during an epidemic season this year following the successful introduction of a new vaccine that could eliminate the primary ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests ending opioid epidemic will take years

July 20, 2017
The question of how to stem the nation's opioid epidemic now has a major detailed response. A new study chaired by University of Virginia School of Law Professor Richard Bonnie provides extensive recommendations for curbing ...

Team-based model reduces prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent

July 17, 2017
A new, team-based, primary care model is decreasing prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent, according to a new study out of Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, which ...

Private clinics' peddling of unproven stem cell treatments is unsafe and unethical

July 7, 2017
Stem cell science is an area of medical research that continues to offer great promise. But as this week's paper in Science Translational Medicine highlights, a growing number of clinics around the globe, including in Australia, ...

Popular heartburn drugs linked to higher death risk

July 4, 2017
Popular heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been linked to a variety of health problems, including serious kidney damage, bone fractures and dementia. Now, a new study from Washington University School ...

Most reproductive-age women using opioids also use another substance

June 30, 2017
The majority of reproductive-age and pregnant women who use opioids for non-medical purposes also use at least one other substance, ranging from nicotine or alcohol to cocaine, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate ...

At-risk chronic pain patients taper opioids successfully with psychological tools

June 28, 2017
Psychological support and new coping skills are helping patients at high risk of developing chronic pain and long-term, high-dose opioid use taper their opioids and rebuild their lives with activities that are meaningful ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.