Study Raises Questions About Impact of Meningitis B Vaccine

Charlie Plain | July 21, 2016


A new study from the School of Public Health finds only 66 percent of college students who received the recommended doses of the meningitis B vaccine Bexsero® (4CMenB) had evidence of an immune response against a particular strain of the disease.

The study was conducted during an outbreak at a New Jersey university in 2014. No cases of meningitis B were reported among the vaccinated students during the outbreak and all vaccinees had evidence they had developed some immunity, however, the findings suggest the vaccine may have limited impact on certain strains.

The study results were recently published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“We believe our results can be used to inform policymakers, clinicians, and the public about the potential limitations of 4CMenB-induced immunity,” says study lead author and Assistant Professor Nicole Basta.

Meningitis is carried by respiratory droplets and oral secretions, and is transmitted through close, intimate contact. Meningitis outbreaks can be more common on college campuses due to close contact among students living in dorms and other community settings.

During the New Jersey outbreak the university used one of two newly-licensed vaccines, which was the first-ever use of a MenB vaccine in the U.S.

In the study, the researchers found that all students fully vaccinated with 4CMenB had an immune response against at least one of the MenB strains that matched the vaccine. However, only 66 percent had evidence of a robust immune response against the specific MenB strain that had caused the outbreak. This suggests there may be limitations to the breadth of immunity induced by the 4CMenB vaccine.

“Our evidence highlights the need for further post-licensure studies to assess individual-level immunity against diverse meningitis B strains and to better understand the breadth of meningitis B vaccine-induced immunity for the Bexsero vaccine as well as the Trumenba vaccine, now that both MenB vaccines are licensed in the U.S.,” says Basta.

Basta and her colleagues are now conducting long-term follow-up with the students vaccinated during the outbreak to assess the duration of immunity induced by the 4CMenB vaccine.

Overall, Basta recommends that adolescents and young adults talk with their doctor about receiving the MenB vaccine.

“Vaccines remain an important tool for preventing bacterial meningitis, which is a serious disease that can strike healthy individuals without warning. Receiving a vaccine that induces an immune response in a majority of people, even if not all people have an immune response against every disease-causing strain, is far better than skipping it altogether,” says Basta.

Basta also notes that people already vaccinated with meningococcal vaccines that protect against disease caused by the group A,C,W, and Y variants of the infection should also consider receiving the MenB vaccine.

~ This story was derived from a press release issued by the Academic Health Center

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