Aetiology and epidemiology
Meninigococcal meninigits and septicemia are devastating diseases caused by Neissieria meningitidis. Although infants and young children are the most susceptible to the disease, adults are also affected but with less incidence. N.meningitidis is a gram negative capsulated bacterium that has been classified into five serogroups (A, B, C, Y, W135) based on their polysaccharide capsule.
Over forty years, developing a vaccine against this dangerous bacterium proceeded with little success. In 1960, the purified polysaccharide antigens were used to develop a vaccine against four groups (A, C, Y, W135) . Unfortunately, this vaccine was highly effective in adults but didn’t give protection to young infants and children who represent the age group most susceptible to the disease. Another challenge is that this vaccine didn’t show success against serogroup B (known as:MenB).
More attempts to overcome the new challenge
Using capsular polysaccharide antigen, as a vaccine against MenB, wasn’t a very good idea. This is due to the fact that MenB capsular polysaccharide is highly similar (nearly identical) to N-acetyl neuraminic acid which is widely distributed in human tissue and that means it is a self antigen. The new vaccine was poorly immunogenic (and thus provide poor protection) and also it might elicit auto-antibodies.
As scientists never give up, they switched into the new trend in vaccinology: Reverse vaccinology. Due to the formerly mentioned, N.meningitidis was expected to be a very promising candidate for reverse vaccinology.
RV provides help
Using in silico technique (computational biology), the genome sequence was fed into a computer, 570 proteins of the bacterium surface were predicted. Going for more refinement, only 350 of these proteins were successfully expressed in E.coli and and used to immunise mice. The sera assays allowed the identification of certain proteins that elicit bactericidal antibodies and surprisingly, were conservative among different strains and this meets the criteria for a good vaccine.
As research is proceeding to deprive our pathogen from enjoying its life inside our bodies, this work suggested further research of other pathogens such as: Streptococcus pneumoniae, Chlamydia pneumoniae, Bascillus anthracis, T.B and group B Streptococcus.
Reference:meningitis, reverse vaccinology, vaccinology