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Meningitis vaccine study gets £200,000 boost
Date:2/7/2008

It can kill in four hours and more than 300 people in the UK die from it every year and hundreds more are left with permanent disabilities. Now researchers will work on a potential vaccine for meningitis B, thanks to a 200,000 grant from the medical charity Meningitis UK.

Although vaccines exist to protect against some strains of meningitis, there is still no vaccine to protect against all strains, including the most common in the UK Group B meningococci. This is responsible for almost 90 per cent of all cases and is most common in children under the age of five.

The team, led by Dr Karl Wooldridge, a lecturer in the Centre for Biomolecular Sciences, aim to develop a vaccine against this strain of the bacterium. Group B meningococci mimic molecules in the human body, which makes developing an effective vaccine against this strain very difficult.

Researchers worldwide are searching for alternative antigens molecules that can stimulate an immune response on the surface of the bacteria, which could be used as a basis for a vaccine against meningitis B.

The team has identified a series of autotransporter proteins proteins which are secreted from the surface of Group B meningococci which could be used to create antibodies that will then kill the bacteria.

The grant will be used to fund a two-year research post, examining each of the proteins produced by the bacteria for the potential to create effective antibodies. The genetic code for each protein will be cloned and tagged, allowing the protein to be produced in large amounts and purified for further study.

If we identify one or more of these proteins that give a good protective response we would ultimately move to human trials, said Dr Wooldridge. This would hopefully demonstrate a positive immune response to the vaccine. By identifying a range of active proteins, rather than just one, we could develop a vaccine that targeted all strains of the Group B
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Contact: Karl Wooldridge
karl.wooldridge@nottingham.ac.uk
University of Nottingham
Source:Eurekalert

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