Development of vaccines against meningococcal disease
Neisseria meningitidis is a major cause of bacterial meningitis and sepsis. Polysaccharide-protein conjugate vaccines for prevention of group C disease have been licensed in Europe. Such vaccines for prevention of disease caused by groups A (which is associated with the greatest disease burden worldwide), Y, and W135 are being developed. However, conventional approaches to develop a vaccine for group B strains, which are responsible for most cases in Europe and the USA, have been largely unsuccessful. Capsular polysaccharide-based vaccines can elicit autoantibodies to host polysialic acid, whereas the ability of most non-capsular antigens to elicit broad-based immunity is limited by their antigenic diversity. Many new membrane proteins have been discovered during analyses of genomic sequencing data. These antigens are highly conserved and, in mice, elicit serum bactericidal antibodies, which are the serological hallmark of protective immunity in man. Therefore, there are many promising new vaccine candidates, and improved prospects for development of a broadly protective vaccine for group B disease, and for control of all meningococcal disease.