Britain’s National Health Service are recruiting 24,000 teenagers to test the first new vaccines for adolescents against meningitis B.
16 to 18 year olds across the UK are being urged to take part in the trial so that researchers can see if immunising them against would protect them and other people.
Dr Matthew Snape, a consultant paediatrician at the Oxford Vaccine Group said: “We are doing the study to help us understand whether an immunisation campaign in teenagers would help us to protect the whole community”
The recruitment started this week with the guinea pigs being recruited via schools across England, Scotland and Wales.
The Telegraph reports: Recent breakthroughs have offered up two new candidate drugs which scientists believe will provide near total protection from meningitis B.
However, by testing them on such a large cohort they also want to establish if the drugs are capable of preventing the spread of the potentially deadly bacteria from protected to unprotected teens, thereby building ‘herd immunisation’.
A meningitis B vaccine for babies was introduced in 2015, following a series of deaths, and initial research suggests rates of infections subsequently reduced by almost half.
While vaccines for other forms of the disease exist for teenagers, currently there are none against meningitis B.
The disease develops from bacteria in the throat, which inflames the membranes surrounding the brain, which can cause fatal or long-lasting damage.
At around 140 cases a year, the condition is rare but, once infected, teenagers have roughly 10 per cent chance of death.
In 2016 more than 400,000 people signed a petition calling for all children to be given a meningitis vaccine, following the death of two-year-old Faye Burdett, whose mother posted pictures of her fighting for her life.
All 16 to 18-year-olds taking part in the study will receive two doses of one of the new vaccines, 8,000 in the 4CMenB (Bexsero) arm, with the same number taking MenB-fHBP (Trumbenba).
A further 8,000 will act as a control group and not be given the vaccine.