Teenagers volunteer for meningitis study

Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust's clinical research nurses have been taking scores of throat swabs from students at local schools and colleges for the UK Meningococcal Carriage Study.

Teenagers and young children are at an increased risk of meningitis and blood poisoning due to the meningococcus germ which is ‘carried’ in the back of the throat without causing any symptoms in about one in five teenagers.

Principal Investigator Dr Richard Cunningham, Consultant Microbiologist at Derriford Hospital, said: “At the moment there is relatively little disease due to meningococci in the UK, but 15 years ago disease levels were five to 10 times higher. The purpose of this research study is to better understand why this germ sometimes causes serious disease, why the amount of the disease varies over time and how vaccines can help protect people against this form of meningitis.

“We have collected samples from the throats of healthy teenagers and these will be compared at research laboratories in Manchester, Glasgow and Oxford University with samples taken from people with the disease.

“Our research nurses, led by Alison Stolton, and our hospital microbiology laboratory team has made a significant contribution to this national study and we are confident we will achieve our target of enrolling 1,500 volunteer participants. We are very grateful to the 15 local schools and colleges for their co-operation. The volunteers who have taken part in this important study should be commended for playing their part in improving the health and wellbeing of young people in the future.”

Nationally the study aims to involve 18,000 teenagers aged 15 to 19 years old across the UK. It is funded by the Wellcome Trust and sponsored by the University of Oxford. In the South West peninsula the researchers are from Devon, Cornwall and Somerset Public Health and Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust.

For more information about the research study, see: http://www.ukmencar4.org/ The study results will be posted on the website and also published in scientific medical journals.