A group of Wigan teenagers is to take part in a groundbreakling trial in the fight against meningitis.
Wigan (Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust) is one of 14 centres around the country where a national research programme will take place to see if vaccinating them against meningococcal group B disease (MenB) will not only protect them from the devastating disease but also reduce the risk in the wider population.
Youngsters taking part in the study will be split into three groups of 8,000, with two receiving free doses of a MenB vaccine and the third acting as a control group.
This group will receive the vaccine after the end of the study so they, too, will benefit from the protection it provides. The research team will look to see if the vaccines reduce the numbers of teenagers carrying the meningitis-causing bacteria in their throats.
Researchers headed by the Oxford Vaccine Group, based at the University of Oxford, nationally will work with the Trusts locally to identify schools and find volunteers aged 16 to 18 to take part in the ‘Be on the TEAM (Teenagers Against Meningitis) research study into the disease.
Nationally the project, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), is seeking to recruit 24,000 young people. The research programme starts this April and will take place over the next 18 months.
Dr Matthew Snape, from the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: “This is a really exciting and important study and a great opportunity for teenagers to ‘Be on the TEAM’ and take part.”
The research study has the full support of national charity Meningitis Now, who will be helping the Trusts to raise awareness about it and is keen for local teenagers to be involved.
Its chief executive, Dr Tom Nutt, said: “Meningitis is a devastating disease that can strike anyone at any time and leave havoc in its wake. Many young people will know of someone from their community whose life, and that of their family and friends, has been torn apart by its impact.
“This important study is a chance for young people to make a real difference to not only their own health but that of their wider community.”
With one-in-four teenagers carrying meningococcal bacteria, compared to one-in-10 amongst the wider community, reducing this could play a critical role in the battle to beat this life-threatening disease.
In the past decade there have been between 700 and 1,300 reported cases of meningococcal disease each year in the UK. GroupB causes the majority of this disease and teenagers are the second most at-risk group, after babies and young children.
Most people will make a good recovery, but between five and 10 per cent of cases will result in death and, of those who survive, 15% can be left with severe and disabling after-effects, such as loss of hearing and sight, brain damage and, where septicaemia has occurred, damage to
major organs and loss of digits and limbs.
Vaccines are the only way to prevent meningitis. A MenB vaccine was added to the UK vaccination schedule in September 2015 but to date is only offered to babies.
Meningitis Now is working towards a future where no one in the UK loses their life to meningitis and everyone affected gets the support they need.
It does this by funding research into vaccines and prevention, raising awareness so people know what to look for and what action to take if they suspect meningitis and rebuilding futures by providing dedicated support to people living with the impact of the disease.
For more information visit www.meningitisnow.org