A Potential Vaccine for the Group B Meningococcus

Summary and Comment |
July 26, 2006

A Potential Vaccine for the Group B Meningococcus

  1. Richard T. Ellison III, MD

Genomic analysis has led to a candidate vaccine against group B Neisseria meningitidis.

  1. Richard T. Ellison III, MD

Serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis (menB) is a major cause of nonepidemic meningococcal disease in industrialized countries. Although an effective vaccine against meningococci of serogroups A, C, Y, and W-135 was developed in the 1970s, the similarity between the capsular polysaccharide of menB and the polysialic acid in human glycoproteins has prevented development of a similar vaccine against these bacterial strains. Researchers in Italy (all employed by or with connections to Novartis Vaccines) recently sequenced the menB genome and have now used this information to create a candidate universal group B meningococcus vaccine.

The researchers discovered 28 novel protein antigens that can induce bactericidal activity in mice. Five of these antigens were selected for further study, and each was found to induce antibodies protective against some but not all menB strains. A multicomponent vaccine containing all five antigens was subsequently created and tested for immunogenicity in mice. Depending on the adjuvant used (aluminum hydroxide, aluminum hydroxide plus CpG 1826, or MF59), this vaccine induced protective bactericidal antibody levels against 78% to 94% of 85 recent menB clinical isolates.

Comment

This five-component vaccine appears to have great potential for effectiveness in humans, and clinical trials are clearly warranted. An effective universal vaccine against menB would be a major advance in our ability to protect against meningococcal disease.

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