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Vaccine cuts meningitis rates, even in adults

Posted in News by Skepdude on January 15, 2009

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A routine childhood vaccine used to prevent several common types of infections has helped cut the rate of a deadly form of meningitis by 30 percent in children and adults, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday, suggesting even the unvaccinated are benefiting from the shot.

They said the vaccine Prevnar made by Wyeth significantly reduced cases of meningitis caused by pneumococcal bacteria strains covered by the vaccine.

But they also noted a worrisome increase of pneumococcal meningitis in strains not covered by the vaccine and those that resist antibiotics.

“When you immunize children, they are much less likely to carry pneumococcal strains covered by the vaccine in the back of the throat,” Dr. Lee Harrison of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, whose study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine, said in a statement.

“When vaccinated children don’t carry these virulent strains, they don’t end up transmitting them to other children, their parents and grandparents.”

Harrison said the study clearly shows adults not covered by the vaccine benefit, suggesting it conveys so-called “herd immunity” to people who have not been vaccinated. Previous studies showed it protected elderly people against deadly pneumonia strains, even when they were not given an adult vaccine.



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