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More than 2,000 Thames Valley teenagers join study to prevent meningitis

More than 2,000 Thames Valley teenagers join study to prevent meningitis

More than 2,000 teenagers in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire have signed up to take part in a groundbreaking research study into preventing meningitis. 

In the UK 24,000 students are taking part, including 2,057 from 24 schools across the three counties.

The study is looking at whether giving 16 to 19 year olds a meningitis B (MenB) vaccine will prevent them from passing the infection onto people of all ages. 

The vaccine has been offered to babies on the NHS since September 2015, as they are most at risk.

The Department of Health and Social Care wants to find out if giving the vaccine to teenagers can protect all age groups.

Meningitis is an infection around the surface of the brain, which can cause life-threatening blood poisoning (septicaemia) and permanent damage to the brain or nerves. 

The vaccine protects against infection by the meningococcal group B bacteria, a major cause of UK meningitis infections.

All teenagers taking part in the study receive two doses of a MenB vaccine. They also have two throat swabs taken 12 months apart. 

The research team are looking to see if the vaccines reduce the numbers of students carrying the meningitis-causing bacteria in their throat. 

The trial uses two licensed MenB vaccines, 4CMenB (Bexsero) and MenB-fHBP (Trumenba). One group of 8,000 get 4CMenB while another 8,000 get MenB-fHBP. The vaccines are given at the start of the study and six months later.

A further 8,000 youngsters do not get the vaccine at first, so swabs can be taken 12 months apart and results compared to those who do get the vaccine, to examine the difference. They then get the 4CMenB vaccine after they have had the swabs taken.

Participant Katie Palmer (pictured above), 17, of Kennet School, Thatcham, Berkshire said: “As somebody who previously didn’t know much about meningitis, taking part in a vaccination study was initially a daunting prospect. 

“The research team, however, did a fantastic job of both educating pupils on the disease and on the research process itself, encouraging the majority of my cohort to give their time to the project. 

“The vaccinations and swabs went smoothly and we all genuinely felt that our participation was helping the greater population to combat meningitis.”

James Evans (pictured above), 17, of Lord Williams’s School in Thame, Oxfordshire said: “Trials like this are so important for furthering research that has the potential to improve all our lives and the final swab is what makes our participation valuable. 

“A few more minutes of our time is all that’s needed to achieve this goal and make the first two visits worthwhile.”

The Be on the TEAM (Teenagers Against Meningitis) trial is led by the University of Oxford with funding and support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The trial began in March 2018 and is being conducted through 154 schools in 16 regions in England, Scotland and Wales. Each region enrols students to one study group.

The study’s lead investigator Professor Matthew Snape, of the university’s Oxford Vaccine Group, said: We have met an amazing milestone by meeting our recruitment target of 24,000 teenagers. Many thanks to the staff and students who have helped make this a great success.

“However, we’re not done yet, and we are asking all our participants to stay involved by coming back to the crucial last study visit.

“Participants not only get a vaccine that reduces their risk of meningitis but also helps us understand if we can prevent the bacteria being carried and potentially spread to others.

“The study will directly inform Department of Health and Social Care policy of the best use of MenB vaccines in the UK.”

For more information visit beontheteam.web.ox.ac.uk.

Participating Thames Valley schools: 

Berkshire: 

  • Kennet School, Thatcham
  • Queen Anne’s School, Caversham
  • Park House School, Newbury
  • St Bartholomew's School, Newbury
  • The Abbey School, Reading
  • Forest School, Winnersh

Buckinghamshire:

  • The Grange School, Aylesbury
  • Aylesbury Grammar School, Aylesbury
  • Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School, Aylesbury

Oxfordshire:

  • Cheney School, Oxford
  • King Alfred’s Academy, Wantage
  • Matthew Arnold School, Oxford
  • Our Lady’s School, Abingdon
  • Tudor Hall School, Banbury
  • Radley College, Abingdon
  • Magdalen College School, Oxford
  • Oxford High School, Oxford
  • Headington School, Oxford
  • Burford School, Burford
  • Lord Williams's School, Thame
  • Didcot Sixth Form, Didcot
  • St Helen & St Katharine, Abingdon
  • North Oxfordshire Academy, Banbury
  • Bartholomew School, Eynsham