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Vaccine deals a blow to meningitis A in Africa 0


A conjugate vaccine has led to control and near total elimination of meningitis A disease in Africa, according to studies. The findings are from a collection of 29 articles written by guest editors from Public Health England and the former Meningitis Vaccine Project, a partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international health non-profit PATH.

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Results from the studies published in the Clinical Infectious Diseasesjournal this month (10 November) show that MenAfriVac® vaccine, has nearly eliminated the disease in Africa’s “meningitis belt.”

According to Marie-Pierre Preziosi, a vaccines specialist at the WHO, the researchers used a mathematical modelling with a wide range of datacollected from previous epidemics, MenAfriVac® vaccine campaigns in Burkina Faso, its clinical trials, and other data about disease and immunisation in Africa.

“We then applied several different long-term vaccination scenarios to this model and determined the best strategy for how countries might wish to implement this vaccine going forward,” Preziosi tells SciDev.Net.

Their strategy, according to Preziosi, predicted long-term protection into national immunisation programmes for children aged 9 to 18 months, no later than five years after the initial mass campaigns in people aged 1 to 29 years, with a catch-up campaign on unvaccinated children born since the initial campaign.

Mark Alderson, the director of PATH’s polyvalent meningococcal vaccine project says meningitis, an infection of the thin lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord, can cause severe brain damage, hearing loss or learning disabilities and is fatal in 50 per cent of cases if untreated.

But the scientists are warning that the disease’ resurgence is likely in 15 years if the vaccine is not incorporated in routine immunisation programmes in the belt countries.

“If there is no effort to incorporate the vaccine into routine immunisation programs, our model predicts that meningitis A epidemics will come back in force after approximately 15 years,” Preziosi says, adding that the vaccine has so far been introduced in 16 countries out of the 26 in the “meningitis belt” stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia.

Burkina Faso was one of the very first countries to introduce the vaccine nationwide, in 2010, and has generated a wealth of information, experience and lessons that benefited other belt countries.

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi