Sixty people falling ill, four dead. That is last year’s toll of meningococcal infection in the Czech Republic, with the majority (3 out of 4 cases) caused by type B meningococcus. A new vaccine named Bexsero has been introduced precisely to fight this type of meningococcus and can be applied to children as well as adults. It is a very recent and one-of-a-kind vaccine resulting from more than 20 years of research and development.
The disease threatens adolescents the most
Vaccination against type B meningococcus is voluntary. It should be considered by parents of children that are at risk – meningococcus threatens adolescents between the age of fifteen and twenty, while a serious state can occur within only a few hours. Usually, this arises in situations where these young people overstretch themselves, party, go to clubs, dance all night, do sports and often work at the same time. As a result, they sleep little and rest insufficiently.
The symptoms are as follows. An infected person is very tired, has a high fever and in the case of meningitis or the acute inflammation of the protective brain membranes, he/she suffers from stiffening of the neck. The disease is also manifested by dark spots below the skin caused by blood clots. Meningitis is not overly dangerous, but requires timely antibiotic treatment. In any case, it is necessary to call an ambulance and not wait for the situation to get better or waiting to bring the person to a general practitioner.
If the disease progresses to its worse stage, a meningococcal sepsis occurs, with extremely fast progression. There is a high possibility that the patient will die in 12 to 24 hours, despite provided medical assistance.
What is the vaccination like?
New vaccination can be requested by parents directly at their pediatrician and it is suitable for children who are at least two months old, but many recommend waiting until the child is two years of age. It is a so-called conjugated (composed of multiple substances) protein vaccine which is injected into the thigh of children up to one year of age and into the buttock muscle in older children and adults. The vaccine is recommended for adults of up to 50 years of age. It is possible to vaccinate a child that does not suffer from any acute disease. It is also not recommended to apply the vaccine on the same day as another vaccine as it can cause fever, which is caused by combining it with other vaccines. Two to three doses are required depending on the age of the person. Each dose cost approximately 3000 CZK.
The Bexsero vaccine against type B meningococcus has been created through reverse vaccinology. This means that computers have been used to select matching sequences determining the proteins which are present in most strains of type B meningococcus. Three new antigen units have been established (fHbp, NadA a NHBA) with the fourth derived from a vaccine already used in New Zealand. The Czech Republic is currently the seventh country in the world where this vaccine is available. It has been used for some time already in the UK, Germany and France. The vaccine has been approved since 2012.
In addition to new vaccination against type B meningococcus, CMC has been offering vaccination against other strains of this bacteria for quite some time. People can be infected with these primarily while traveling abroad. The Menveo conjugated tetravaccine is aimed at protecting from 4 of the 5 most common meningococcal groups: A, C, W135 and Y. The Menveo vaccine can be applied to children older than two years of age and adults. More information about the vaccine as well as its application can be requested from your general practitioner for children or adults.
What you should know about meningococcus
- Meningococcus belongs to a type of bacteria that causes inflammation of the brain’s protective layers or a serious sepsis.
- It is treated with the application of strong antibiotics while hospitalized.
- Inflammation of the brain’s protective layers caused by meningococcus is not that serious.
- A meningococcal sepsis tends to progress rapidly and may not be stopped by antibiotics. A septic shock occurs and organ failure is imminent.
- Meningococcus is common in our population and is carried by 10 to 20 percent of the population.
- It rests in the nasopharynx and is transmitted by droplet infection.
- There are five strains of the bacteria, with type B being the most common in the Czech Republic. It is now possible to vaccinate against it.
- In Africa, type A is most prevalent. In Asia, the W135 type is most widespread and in both cases, vaccinations exist to protect from it.
- Vaccination against meningococcus is not required and is therefore not covered by insurance. However, it is likely that insurance companies will soon be covering its use as well.
Barbara Taušová – pediatrician, founder, executive head and director of private family medical center Canadian Medical Care in Prague, owner of a private pediatric office in Prague.