January 8, 2008

Two New Meningitis Vaccines to be Tested in Nashville

Pediatric researchers at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children\’s Hospital at Vanderbilt are working with community pediatricians attempting to reduce the risk to children from two of the major causes of meningitis.

Nashville (Tenn.) -Pediatric researchers at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt are working with community pediatricians attempting to reduce the risk to children from two of the major causes of meningitis. Meningitis, a serious and sometimes deadly inflammation of the lining of the brain, is caused by a number of viruses and bacteria. But meningitis caused by bacterial infections from two different bacteria – pneumococcus and Neisseria meningitides – currently pose the greatest risk for causing serious long-term brain injury or death. In some instances these same bacteria can infect the blood, causing systemic and circulatory problems that can lead to amputation, organ failure and death.The Vanderbilt Pediatric Clinical Research Office has launched two vaccine studies with Middle Tennessee-area pediatric practices. Kathryn Edwards, M.D., professor of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Pediatric Research, is the principal investigator for both studies looking at new vaccinations for children at the greatest risk for meningitis. One study will test a vaccine to protect against Neisseria meningitidis in children younger than 2, and the other study will evaluate the effectiveness of an expanded pneumococcal vaccine that has been engineered to increase the number of bacterial strains covered in the vaccination from seven to 13.”We have had great success in the reduction of meningitis in children, but these two new vaccines are important new tools to add in our assault on meningitis,” said Edwards. “We still see children made ill by both pneumococcal and Neisseria meningitidis meningitis. In fact, they are currently the No. 1 and No. 2 causes of meningitis in young children.”Over the years, the National Institutes of Health and private industry have supported vaccine research at Vanderbilt to reduce major illnesses and death from Haemophilus influenzae, pneumococcal disease and meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis. Edwards says that Nashville’s community pediatricians have been a tremendous help to this research. For these vaccine trials two area community pediatric clinics will play a crucial role. Goodlettsville Pediatrics will be testing the new N. meningitidis vaccine for infants at 2, 4 and 6 months of age. Catherine Dundon, M.D., is leading enrollment of patients there. Pediatric Associates of Franklin, Tenn., will be enrolling children to be given the expanded pneumoccocal vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age.”Here at Vanderbilt, we have been leaders in developing research projects to enroll children in the community through local pediatric practices,” Edwards said. “This has the effect of accelerating the rate of research because enrollment is so much higher.We owe much to our private pediatric colleagues in the fight against many diseases in children.” The studies will be completed and results will be available in about two years.