Pneumococcal meningitis - improving diagnosis and management
|Project Leader||Dr G I Oligbu MBBS MRCPCH MSc|
|Location||Immunisation, Hepatitis and Blood Safety Department (IHBSD), Public Health England, London|
|Grant awarded||26 November 2018|
|Provisional start date||1 March 2019|
|Provisional end date||1 April 2021|
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The bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus, can cause a number of serious infections including meningitis, sepsis and pneumonia. Young children are particularly at risk, up to one in seven of those who develop pneumococcal meningitis will lose their lives and a quarter will have severe, long-lasting effects, including loss of hearing, loss of sight, seizures and learning disabilities. There are almost 100 different strains of pneumococcus and since 2006, a national immunisation programme in the UK and Ireland has vaccinated children against the most common strains. This has led to a rapid and sustained reduction in serious pneumococcal infections. However, this reduction has been associated with an increase in pneumococcal disease caused by strains that are not covered by the current vaccines. These new strains are now responsible for nearly all serious pneumococcal infections in children. At present, not much is known about the risk, severity and outcomes of meningitis caused by these ‘non-vaccine’ strains.
The research project
The aim of this project is to gain a better understanding of pneumococcal strains not covered by vaccines in order to improve the current diagnosis and management of childhood pneumococcal meningitis. By understanding the characteristics of disease caused by these new strains, doctors will be able to give parents of children with pneumococcal meningitis a more accurate picture of the likely course of their illness and long-term outlook. The researchers also plan to develop evidence-based guidelines for the management and follow-up of children with pneumococcal meningitis, which reflect the changed nature of the disease since immunisation programmes began. In addition, they hope to identify pneumococcal strains that are most likely to cause serious complications. If doctors are better able to predict the course of disease in children infected with specific pneumococcal strains, this could help them provide the best possible treatment for children with life-threatening complications.