Meningitis and septicaemia can be caused by a number of viruses and bacteria. Illness caused by bacteria is the most serious and meningococcal disease is the commonest cause of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the United Kingdom
The incidence of meningococcal disease had been increasing in the second half of the 1990s. However, the introduction of a new vaccine against Group C meningococcal infection in November 1999 has reduced the incidence of meningococcal Group C disease by up to 90 per cent. in those age groups immunised.
The vast majority of meningococcal disease is now caused by Group B infection. The success of the meningitis C vaccine has demonstrated that the best way to reduce the incidence of Group B disease is through an effective meningitis B vaccine. Unfortunately, we are some years away from having such a vaccine. Work to find a vaccine against Group B is much more difficult than for Group C, although early indicators for a Group B vaccine are encouraging. The Department is investigating Group B vaccines in collaboration with RIVM, the Dutch national vaccine manufacturer, and funds Group B vaccine dedicated work at the Centre for Applied Microbiology Research.