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- A new, affordable meningitis vaccine, NmCV-5, has been successfully tested in Africa.
- The vaccine has the potential to save up to 250,000 lives annually.
- NmCV-5, unlike current alternatives, provides protection against five main meningococcal strains, including the dangerous emerging X strain.
A new hope against meningitis
Affordable, effective, and a potential lifesaver - that's the new meningitis vaccine, NmCV-5.
Successfully tested in Africa, this promising medical advance may pave the way to eliminating a disease that takes the lives of 250,000 people every year.
Created by the Serum Institute of India and global health organization Path, NmCV-5 protects against the five main meningococcal strains found in Africa. This includes the emerging X strain, a villain without a current licensed vaccine.
Trials show promise
The vaccine underwent trials involving 1,800 people aged two to 29 in Mali and the Gambia back in 2021. The results were bright. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reported that NmCV-5 generated a robust immune response against all five strains.
Meningitis, a disease caused by bacteria or viral infections that inflame the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, hits Africa hardest. Sixty percent of meningitis deaths occur there. The disease is particularly prevalent along the "meningitis belt," a stretch from the Gambia and Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east.
Africans are twice as likely to suffer serious long-term complications from meningitis than people in high-income countries. This disparity is attributed to late diagnoses and treatments among other factors.
The cost of available vaccines, protecting against four strains, is currently out of reach for most African countries. The NmCV-5 vaccine, set to be available in the coming months, is thus a welcome development.
A crucial factor is its protection against the X strain. This strain can spread rapidly, and there are currently no vaccines to combat it.
Embracing a gamechanger
Ed Clarke, a co-author of the study, expressed enthusiasm about the vaccine's potential. He expects NmCV-5 to provide reliable protection against meningitis caused by the meningococcal bacteria in Africa. "It should be gamechanging for epidemic meningitis control in the 'meningitis belt'," he added.
The World Health Organization's goal is to reduce vaccine-preventable meningitis by 50 percent and deaths by 70 percent by 2030. NmCV-5 might be a significant stride towards this goal.
Ama Umesi, also a co-author, emphasized the importance of "epidemic preparedness" in the fight against meningitis. "Having meningitis vaccines should be a public health priority," Umesi said. The new vaccine, affordable and accessible, could be a gamechanger in this fight.
News tips: Tony Morley