US approves first vaccine against dangerous meningitis strain

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first vaccine against meningitis B following outbreaks in several college campuses over the past year.

Washington: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first vaccine against meningitis B following outbreaks in several college campuses over the past year.

The vaccine Trumenba, to be manufactured by Pfizer, is approved for people between the ages of 10 and 25 years of age and protects against Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B, the FDA said in a statement Wednesday.

Out of the 500 cases of meningococcal disease reported in the US in 2012, 160 were caused by serogroup B, the most lethal strain, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although vaccination is the most effective way of preventing the disease, until now meningococcal vaccines approved for use in the US have only covered four of the five main serogroups of N. meningitidis bacteria: A, C, Y and W.

"Recent outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease on a few college campuses have heightened concerns for this potentially deadly disease," said Karen Midthun, director of the Centre for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA.

As the bacteria spreads through close physical contact like coughing, kissing and sharing eating utensils, outbreaks are more common in places where people live in close quarters such as college campuses.

Although this illness can affect any population group, its incidence is higher among infants, adolescents, young adults and the elderly, said Pfizer, which had been in a race with Swiss drug maker Novartis to win approval in the US of a vaccine for serogroup B meningitis.

The disease can be treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of death or long term health problems but immediate medical care is "extremely important", said the federal agency in its statement. 

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