Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On the road to better treatment for bacteriral meningitis!

Researchers at the University of Nottingham just discovered how meningococcal bacteria (causes bacterial meningitis which can kill you just hours after the symptoms appear) breaks through the blood brain barrier. There are three specific respiratory tract pathogens that cause bacterial meningitis in children: Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis, and Haemophilus influenzae. The scientists just discovered that all three pathogens target the same receptor on human cerebrovascular endothelial cells to allow them to pass through the barrier. If we could interfere with the interaction between the pathogens and the receptor (maybe by blocking the receptors or through some other method), some treatment could be developed to offer alternative protection and prevention against meningitis.

There is a vaccine for meningitis that is approved for people aged 11 and older. It's 83% effective and protects against 4 of the 5 strands of bacterial meningitis. Even then, according the MSNBC, in 2006, only 12% of teenagers received the vaccine (although the statistic is questionable because we don't know if these are ALL teenagers, including those who had already been vaccinated, or only un-vaccinated teenagers). But still, I don't see why you would not get the vaccine if you had access to it. It seems like some movement is being made to push the necessity of the vaccine. Twenty states now require all college students to either get the vaccine or sign a waiver saying that they've read about the diseases.

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