New vaccine prevents meningitis B in more than 80 pc of teenagers

London: Australian scientists have developed a jab to protect against deadly meningitis B, and early trials have shown it could prevent the illness in more than 80 per cent of youngsters.

Meningitis B is particularly dangerous for children, leading to 120 deaths in the UK every year.

At present, though there is a jab for meningitis C, there is no vaccine for this strain.

Scientists at the University of Western Australia believe the jab could be widely available within five years, the Daily Mail reported.

In trials involving 539 teenagers, they found that just over 80 per cent were completely protected against the illness. They were given three doses of the vaccine over six months.

Researchers then measured whether their immune system was able to fight the meningitis bacteria.

“It`s really important that we protect against this disease. It`s so hard to recognise early on and then it progresses so rapidly, it`s a matter of hours,” said lead author Peter Richmond.

There are around 1,200 new cases of meningitis B every year.

Around 1 in 10 victims die and another 15 per cent are left with permanent disabilities - often limbs have to be amputated due to blood poisoning.

The infection causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain.

Symptoms include a severe headache, vomiting, a rash, sensitivity to light and a stiff neck.

The researchers hope the vaccine, developed by drugs` firm Pfizer, will be on the market within the next three to five years.

But another drugs giant, Novartis, may be even closer to producing a vaccine.

It has already applied to the European drugs regulatory body for a licence for its jab following successful results earlier this year.

If approved, the vaccine would likely be given to babies from the age of two months with a booster every year.

There is currently a jab for meningitis C that has been given to babies and teenagers since 1999, and has been credited with saving hundreds of lives.

But scientists have so far been unable to come up with one for meningitis B.

This is largely because it is made up of many strains of bacteria and the vaccine would need to protect against all of them.

The study has been published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.