Meningitis Research Foundation

Impact of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine on pneumococcal disease prevalence and genetics in the UK

During 2006 a vaccine that protects against the 7 types of pneumococcal bacteria that cause most cases of severe pneumococcal disease – meningitis, septicaemia, and pneumonia – in the UK, was introduced into the routine UK infant immunisation programme. This project involves monitoring of the impact of the vaccine so we can be sure the programme is working.

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Registered Charity in England and Wales (1091105)




  • Health/WellbeingHealth/Wellbeing
  • Medical ResearchMedical Research


  • Children (3-18)Children (3-18)
  • Older PeopleOlder People
  • Women & GirlsWomen & Girls
  • Young People (18-30)Young People (18-30)
  • OtherOther



Pneumococcal disease is the second most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK and Ireland (after Group B meningococcal disease). A conjugate pneumococcal vaccine has been introduced into the routine UK infant immunisation programme during 2006. It is critically important the impact of the vaccine on pneumococcal disease is monitored so we can be sure the immunisation programme is working, and any problems are detected so that changes can be made to deal with them. In the USA, the vaccine was introduced in 2000 and has dramatically reduced disease rates in both young children and adults. However the USA is beginning to see an increase in pneumococcal infections not covered by the vaccine, which may compromise the positive effect of immunisation. This may be due simply to an increase in non-vaccine type pneumococci, or to ‘capsule switching’ – when bacteria change their outer coating so that the vaccine no longer protects against them. As the vaccine is introduced, every case of severe pneumococcal disease will be followed up. This will enable researchers on this project to conduct molecular examination of the genetic make-up of the pneumococci responsible – including cases judged to be vaccine failures and all cases of meningitis. They will establish whether the bacteria isolated from these patients are non-vaccine types, new emerging types not covered by the vaccine, or vaccine types that have undergone ‘capsule switching’. The current “gold standard” method, Multi Locus Sequence Typing, will be used and compared with newer and potentially more cost effective methods. The results obtained will gauge the impact of the pneumococcal vaccination programme and help to inform further strategic developments of pneumococcal vaccines and their use in both children and adults. Total budget for 3-year project: Staff £246,757.00 Consumables £91,639.00 Total £338,396.00 We have £130,442.00 restricted to this project and are trying to raise the remaining £207,954.00.