A potential new vaccine to protect against deadly Meningitis B is one step closer.

Excitement surrounds the latest data from pharmaceutical company Novartis, which announced it has applied for a license from the EU to market its vaccine candidate for the killer brain bug.

The vaccine was tested against 800 strains collected from across Europe and data reveals that it guards against 77 per cent of these.

While the protection levels to people in the UK will not be known until next year, charity Meningitis UK said the vaccine has the potential to safeguard thousands of lives in the future.

Should Novartis’ marketing authorisation application be successful then the company will be able to apply for Bexsero to be included in the Routine Immunisation Programme in the UK.

Meningitis B is the most common form of bacterial meningitis in this country and is also one of the most deadly, in some cases killing in under four hours.

But, due to its complex nature, it has been the hardest to immunise against and as yet there is no vaccine in use in the UK.

Steve Dayman, the chief executive of Meningitis UK who lost his own son Spencer to the disease in 1982, has dedicated the last 28 years of his life to fundraising and campaigning to eradicate the killer disease.

He said: “We’ve never been this close before and this is very exciting news after decades of research.

“It’s not the end of the story yet as we need to find out what protection the vaccine offers people in the UK.

“We’re very hopeful that the data will confirm that this vaccine has the potential to save countless lives in the future should it be introduced into the Routine Immunisation Programme.

“It certainly gives me a great deal of optimism that we’re on the verge of another milestone in the fight against meningitis.”

Across the UK there are in excess of 1,200 cases of meningitis B each year, resulting in some 120 deaths and around 250 children are left with serious life-long complications such as limb amputations, blindness, deafness and brain damage.

Meningitis UK’s Search 4 a Vaccine Campaign aims to raise £7million to help fund cutting-edge research to eradicate all forms of meningitis.

Meningitis facts:

• Classic symptoms include a headache, stiff neck and a dislike of bright light. Other symptoms can include difficulty supporting own weight, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, confusion and drowsiness.

• It can cause septicaemia, which leads to aching limbs, cold hands and feet and a rash.

• Meningitis can affect anyone of any age, however babies, children under the age of five, young people aged 16-24 and the elderly are most at risk.

• Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining that covers the brain and spinal cord.

• There are approximately 3,000 cases of all forms of meningitis recorded in the UK every year. Of these, around 300 people die and hundreds more are left with permanent disabilities.

• Every week, six families face the traumatic loss of a loved one to meningitis.

• No vaccine exists for Meningitis B, which is the most common form of the disease – accounting for 90% of meningococcal cases.

• It can kill in under four hours, which is why prompt medical treatment is so important.

For further information visit http://www.meningitisuk.org or call 0117 373 7373.

Source: Meningitis UK