Childhood Bacterial Meningitis Vaccine Programme

Programme Leader: Prof Andrew Pollard


Childhood bacterial meningitis, a globally important infection is caused by three major bacterial pathogens: Neisseria meningitidis (the meningococcus), Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

The meningococcus is responsible for 500,000 cases of disease each year with a mortality rate of ~10% and is a leading infectious cause of childhood death in the UK with 1000-2000 cases per year. Unfortunately, meningococcal disease cannot be comprehensively controlled due to the lack of a vaccine against serogroup B organisms.

The Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG) is a multidisciplinary paediatric vaccines group headed by Prof Andrew Pollard which is affiliated to the Jenner Institute. The OVG is actively involved in research projects focusing on all three bacterial causes of meningitis.

Evaluation of existing vaccines

The group conducts a wide range of phase II and III clinical trials of meningitis vaccines, enrolling over 2000 children in recent years. Vaccines studied include the meningococcal serogroup C (MenC) and B (MenB) vaccines and the combined Hib-MenC vaccine, both subsequently introduced into the routine UK immunisation schedule. Other recent studies include the assessment of the persistence of antibodies following MenC immunisation in teenagers, the evaluation of new vaccines with the potential to protect against a broader range of meningococcal serogroups and studies of the pneumococcal and Hib conjugate vaccines in UK and Nepal.

New vaccine development and research

In addition, we are pursuing a number of new meningococcal vaccine development projects funded by the Wellcome Trust, Meningitis UK, Sparks and Action Research. Some of these vaccines, based on proteins in the outer membrane of the meningococcus  identified from population genetic studies will be the subject of a forthcoming phase I clinical trials conducted In Oxford.

In support of our clinical trial work, we are also interested in understanding the genetics of the immune response, the nature of immunological memory and the immune responses to conjugate vaccines as well as conducting serological surveys of meningitis-causing bacteria in the UK and Nepal.