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Improved Meningitis Vaccine for Africa Expected to End Deadly Scourge

The Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) today released new data on the performance of a meningitis vaccine in West African children, suggesting that the new vaccine-- expected to sell initially for 40 cents a dose --will be much more effective in protecting African children and their communities than any vaccine currently on the market in the region.

MVP, a partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Seattle-based non-profit, PATH, is collaborating with Pune-based vaccine producer, Serum Institute of India Limited (SIIL), to produce the new vaccine against serogroup A Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus).

The preliminary results of their study, a Phase II vaccine trial, reveal that the vaccine could eventually slash the incidence of epidemics in the meningitis belt, as 21 affected nations of sub-Saharan Africa are collectively known. The vaccine is expected to block infection by the serogroup A meningococcus, and therefore extend protection to the entire population, including the unvaccinated, a phenomenon know as herd immunity.

The new meningococcal conjugate vaccine trial, in 12- to 23-month-olds in Mali and The Gambia, shows that the vaccine was safe, and that it produced antibody levels almost 20 times higher than those obtained with the marketed polysaccharide (un-conjugated) vaccine. This means that protection from serogroup A meningococcal meningitis is expected to last for several years.

"This important study brings real hope that the lives of thousands of children, teenagers, and young adults will be saved by immunization and that widespread suffering, sickness and socioeconomic disruption can be avoided, said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization in a statement.

As a result of the encouraging preliminary findings of this Phase II clinical study, SIIL and MVP will proceed with a Phase 2/3 study where the vaccine will be tested in 2- to 29
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