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Meningitis Drug For Infants on the Horizon

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, January 09, 2008 8:12 AM EST
Category: None
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs,

A meningitis drug for infants may be on the horizon.


Until now there has been no vaccine against potentially fatal bacterial meningitis in infants under the age of two.

A new type of vaccine made by Novartis AG is being promised to fight the brain inflammation disease in children as young as three to 12 months.   Novartis says the vaccine boots the immunity in infants against four of the most common strains of the bacterial disease – A,C, Y and W-135.

The effectiveness of the new vaccine called MenACWY was tested on 421 health babies in Canada and Britain and was found to boost immunity to all four strains. The majority of infants, 92 percent, developed antibodies to all four strains after they received a series of shots at two months, four months and one year.  

Still this does not prove the vaccine is safe and there is no information on how long the meningitis immunity lasts.    Expect Novartis, which funded the study, to apply for approval sometime this year. The drug will be called Menveo. No word yet on whether it will contain the preservative, thimerosal.

In October, a competitor, Sanofi-Aventis won FDA approval for a similar vaccine, called Menactra, to be used in children ages two to ten.

Infants have the highest rate of infection from meningococcal disease which can strike a quick and deadly blow. Though it only afflicts a few thousand Americans a year up to 20 percent develop devastating long-term disabilities such as brain damage or hearing loss as reported in Tuesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Meningitis used to affect about 20,000 infants under age two until the introduction of Hib in 1990.  The Haemophilus influenza type b vaccine (Hib) is linked to a reduction of cases to approximately 1,500 a year.

The CDC reports that the new vaccine, if approved, could prevent half of the 300 cases of meningococcal meningitis in infants under the age of two. #


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