Pneumococcal meningitis - improving diagnosis and management | Children's Charity

Pneumococcal meningitis - improving diagnosis and management

Project LeaderDr G I Oligbu MBBS MRCPCH MSc
Project team
  • Dr S N Ladhani BSc, MBBS, MSc, MRCPCH, PhD
LocationImmunisation, Hepatitis and Blood Safety Department (IHBSD), Public Health England, London
Other locations
  • Paediatric Infectious Diseases Research Group, Institute for Infection and Immunity, St. George's, University of London
Duration25 months
Grant awarded26 November 2018
Provisional start date1 March 2019
Provisional end date1 April 2021
Grant amount£19,850.00
Grant codeGN2752

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Background

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.

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