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Preventing meningococcal disease - Oxford

Professor Christoph Tang, Professor Susan Lea, Professor Matthew Pickering, Professor Ray Borrow & Dr Ilse Jongerius

University of Oxford

Mar 2012 – Feb 2014

Research magnifying glass image

Development of meningococcal vaccines through the gonococcal homologue factor H binding protein.


The development of a broadly protective vaccine against meningococcal disease still remains a critical goal. It is known that meningococcal bacteria produce a protein called factor H binding protein which has already proved to be a highly effective vaccine candidate. This protein helps bacteria escape being killed by our immune system by binding to the human molecule factor H. This binding cloaks the bacteria and helps to switch off our immune responses.

However, using fHbp in vaccines does not give complete protection because there are many different strains of meningococcal bacteria which produce different forms of the fHbp. For example, if the vaccine contains fHbp type 1, only meningococcal bacteria that produce fHbp 1 will be targeted. Any bacteria that produce fHbp types 2 and 3 will not be affected and will still be able to cause infection.

What the research team did

The research team identified an alternative fHbp in a related organism, Neisseria gonorrhoea, called gonococcal homologue fHbp (Ghbp). They found that Ghbp could be used to make new vaccines that would protect against a wider range of meningococcal strains. An additional benefit is that Ghbp does not bind to human factor H, so a vaccine containing this protein could be more effective.

Summary and impact of results

The results of this project could lead to the development of a vaccine offering broader protection against meningococcal disease. The project was completed in February 2014 and commercial partners will now be sought to lead the work to clinical trials.

More information

If you would like more information about this project, or our research in general, please contact research@meningitisnow.org.

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