Experts make meningitis discovery

BBC News

10 February 2009

Experts at the University of Nottingham say they have made a possible breakthrough in the treatment and prevention of meningitis.

A team led by Professor Del Ala-Aldeen has identified a part of the brain that is targeted by the meningococcus bacterium, which causes the illness.

Prof Ala-Aldeen said the discovery could lead to better treatment and vaccines to prevent meningitis.

But he added it was still early days and more research lay ahead.

Fast, fatal disease

"This organism has been with us as humans for tens of thousands of years, causing disease and remaining in society, going from one person to another," said Prof Ala-Aldeen, who has been studying meningitis and its causes for 21 years.

"We have antibiotics that can kill the organism, we have a vaccine that can kill certain groups but we don't have any weapon against the bulk of the others which cause the disease so fast, we can't actually get the patient to hospital quick enough to save their lives.

"This will help us understand the relationship better between the organism and humans and that way we can develop new strategies for new drugs and develop strategies for preventing the disease, such as a vaccine, for those who are healthy and we want to protect them."

In November 2008 a female, first-year student from Nottingham Trent University died from meningitis.

At the time, officials said winter brought an increase in meningitis cases and people should be aware of symptoms which could include fever, vomiting and a bruise-like rash.