New meningitis shot could halt African epidemics

Wed Jun 15, 2011 9:00pm GMT

* Cheap new vaccine "dramatically better" than standard shot

* Experts say vaccine could end "meningitis belt" epidemics

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, June 15 (Reuters) - A cheap new meningitis vaccine designed to treat a type of the disease common in Africa could significantly reduce or even halt future epidemics in Africa's so-called "meningitis belt", scientists said on Wednesday.

International researchers said the vaccine, called MenAfriVac and made by the Indian generic drugmaker Serum Institute, was 20 times as effective as an older vaccine in trials in three countries.

In two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which MenAfriVac's potency and effectiveness was compared with a standard vaccine often used during meningitis outbreaks in the region, scientists said the new shot was "dramatically better".

MenAfriVac was developed for use against meningitis A, a type which causes regular epidemics in Africa, and costs just 50 U.S. cents per dose.

Marie-Pierre Preziosi of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) immunisation, vaccines and biologicals department, said its use could significantly reduce or stop epidemics in the belt stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, which currently has the highest rates of the disease in the world.   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.