Meningitis drug hope

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Hopes of finding a way to stem meningitis child deaths were raised yesterday by results from the first patient trial of a new drug. Despite treatment with antibiotics, between 20-50 per cent of children who contract the blood infection meningococcal septicaemia die, usually within 24 hours. Those who survive are often left disabled from brain injury or suffer gangrene leading to the loss of limbs.

The new drug, a genetically engineered version of a protein produced by human immune cells to combat infection, dramatically cut the expected number of deaths in a small group of seriously ill children. Researchers at the University of Texas in the United States said the results were far better than expected for such ill patients.

l A 20-year-old engineering student at the University of Sussex in Brighton is believed to have died from meningococcal meningitis. He is the second student to die of the disease in days. Earlier this week a first-year student at Portsmouth University died.