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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

A successful meningitis vaccine: 12/21/2015

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

A bacterial meningitis vaccination program in 15 African nations may end a once-deadly epidemic of the infectious disease within the region, suggests an article recently published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The article's seven authors explain a public immunization vaccine intended for use in African nations (where bacterial meningitis outbreaks once were common) reduced the number of new cases to near zero in 2014.

The authors explain bacterial meningitis infects the membranes surrounding the human brain and spinal cord and was one of the important public health challenges in sub-Saharan Africa prior to the introduction of a new vaccine for meningitis A only five years ago.

As recently as 1996-97, the authors report about 250,000 cases of meningococcal meningitis were reported and there were 25,000 related deaths in some sub-Saharan nations.

However, by 2014 the authors report almost 217 million Africans in 15 nations received the pioneering vaccine, which was developed via a partnership among the World Health Organization, PATH (a private foundation that provides public health interventions) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Incidentally, the African meningitis A vaccine only costs about .50 cents a dose.

The authors write (and we quote): 'The vaccine has been shown to be safe and has generated (population) protection, with control and near-elimination of group A meningococcal disease wherever it has been used' (end of quote).

In accompanying research about the vaccine's success within the same issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, other contributions note a continuing need to vaccinate children in African nations where the possibility of meningitis A's resurgence remains an ongoing threat.

Other articles note the meningitis A vaccine also is a tetanus booster, which has increased recipient long-term immunity. Hence, the vaccination campaign has managed two serious public health problems in sub-Saharan Africa.

Overall, the introductory article's seven authors conclude (and we quote), 'The initial success of the project is a testimonial to the potential of public/private partnerships to develop needed vaccines that, when introduced, can have a major impact to solve important public health problems' (end of quote).

Incidentally, it is a fine way to end 2015 by noting a clinical intervention success story within emerging nations such as: Mali, Chad, the Congo, and Ethiopia. We thank The Economist for reporting about (and alerting us) to the story and emphasize how much it contrasts with the global Ebola scare (that originated in W. Africa) towards the end of 2014.

Turning to the U.S., MedlinePlus.gov's meningococcal infections health topic page provides an overview of the diseases' prevention, as well as a review of available vaccines within the 'prevention/screening' section. Both the websites about meningitis and related bacterial infections are provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC).

In case you plan to visit sub-Saharan Africa, the CDC provides a helpful Travelers' Health webpage (about the prevention of meningitis and related diseases) within the 'related issues' section of MedlinePlus.gov's meningococcal infections health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's meningococcal infections health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the 'clinical trials' section. You also can sign up to receive updates about meningococcal infections as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's meningococcal infections health topic page type 'meningococcal infections' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'meningococcal infections (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also has a health topic page solely devoted to meningitis.

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Please join us here next week and here's to your health!