A new vaccine developed by the Serum Institute of India to fight meningococcal disease could help eliminate meningitis across Africa. The results from a trial, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found the vaccine was associated with a strong immune response and good safety profile.

The trial, conducted in 1,800 healthy individuals ranging from ages 2-29 years in Mali and The Gambia in 2021, found NmCV-5 induced a strong immune response across five strains of meningococcal bacteria. The response was more powerful than that generated by MenACWY-D – a licensed quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine marketed by GSK. The overall difference in seroresponses to the two vaccines for the four shared serogroups ranged from 1.2 percentage points (96% CI, −0.3 to 3.1) for serogroup W to 20.5 percentage points (96% CI, 15.4 to 25.6) for serogroup A. There was no significant difference in side effect profiles of the two vaccines, based on the data.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set a goal of ending the meningitis epidemic by 2030. The disease is estimated to have caused 250,000 deaths in 2019 and with supply and affordability issues surrounding the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccines, current therapy options are struggling to contain the effects of the virus. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) also highlights the urgent need for a vaccine against the meningococcal X strain.

NmCV-5 should be a cheaper option compared to existing quadrivalent vaccines, owing to more cost-effective production methods.

“The new vaccine will be a critical tool to interrupting and preventing devastating epidemics of meningitis in the meningitis belt,” said Dr. Ed Clarke, a paediatrician at the MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM and co-author of the study, said in an announcement accompanying the results.

Dr. Ama Umesi, co-author from the same Unit, added that properly preparing for epidemics is critical in providing affordable and accessible vaccines to regions that need them most.

“Having meningitis vaccines should be a public health priority to prevent catastrophic outcomes during an outbreak and would be a game changer in the fight against meningitis,” Umesi said.