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Meningitis Vaccine Seems to Work Like a Charm
Date:1/14/2009

Study finds it has led to a considerable reduction in infection rates,,

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Rates of pneumococcal meningitis, a potentially life-threatening infection, have declined substantially since a new vaccine was introduced in 2000, a new study shows.

The declines have been seen not only in children given the vaccine but also in adults, suggesting a herd immunity effect, the researchers noted. To assess the effect of the vaccine, researchers from several universities analyzed surveillance data from 1998 to 2005 in eight states.

Overall, the number of cases of the disease dropped 30 percent in that time, but the effect on the very youngest and oldest was even more pronounced: Incidence decreased by 64 percent in those younger than 2 and by 54 percent in those older than 65.

"This vaccine has really had a very profound effect on the incidence of pneumococcal disease," said study co-author Dr. Nancy Bennett, a professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in New York. The report appears in the Jan. 15 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study goes beyond previous research in terms of looking at population groups as well as different forms of Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes pneumococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the meninges, or membranes, surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

"This is a pretty comprehensive study looking at a number of different serotypes [groupings of bacteria within a family] and all age groups. It gets a nice survey of the population," said Jeffrey Cirillo, an associate professor of microbial and molecular pathogenesis at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, in College Station. "It is only in eight states so it's not throughout the entire country, but it's probably the most comprehensive analysis, and no one else had looked at it over that long of a period."

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