Meningitis vaccine trial starts after gene decoding

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The Independent Online

Scientists have decoded the entire genetic script of the microbe that causes the most common form of meningitis, and have used the information to develop a possible vaccine.

Scientists have decoded the entire genetic script of the microbe that causes the most common form of meningitis, and have used the information to develop a possible vaccine.

Researchers announce today in the journal Science that they have deciphered the full DNA sequence of Neisseria meningitidis, the bacterium primarily responsible for the potentially lethal B-strain of meningococcal disease.

Working out the digital code of the microbe's genes has allowed the scientists to investigate 350 potential vaccines and identify candidates for trials. There is no vaccine against the B-strain, which can have a fatality rate of 15 per cent.

The findings could be one of the first examples of vaccine development using the new science of "genomics", where gene sequences are used as the basis to develop new pharmaceutical products from the "bottom up" Scientists from Oxford University's institute of molecular medicine collaborated with American gene-sequence and vaccine experts.

More research will be done before vaccines can be tested on humans. The scientists believe they can find a vaccine that will work against more than one meningitis strain.

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