University researcher to conduct meningitis vaccine study

University researcher to conduct meningitis vaccine study

A Princeton University researcher is recruiting students to participate in a study intended to learn more about the impact of the meningitis B vaccine that has been offered to members of the University community.

Nicole Basta, an associate research scholar with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and an infectious disease epidemiologist, said that students at Princeton present a unique possibility to help learn more about combating the deadly disease.

"The use of the meningitis B vaccine at Princeton provides an unprecedented opportunity to evaluate its impact," said Basta. "The more we can learn about the vaccination in the context of Princeton's outbreak, the better prepared we'd be in the future to prevent and control meningococcal serogroup B outbreaks throughout the world."

Basta has extensive experience designing and conducting clinical epidemiological studies investigating the impact of vaccines, including a study in Mali examining population-level immunity following a mass-vaccination campaign to protect against meningococcal disease.

Basta conceived of the idea for a study at Princeton in the winter following the first vaccine clinics on campus, and has developed the study in partnership with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Department of Molecular Biology, University Health Services and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety. The study will be funded by the Program on U.S. Health Policy in the Center for Health and Wellbeing at the Woodrow Wilson School. The study has been approved by the University’s Institutional Review Board.

Nine cases of meningococcal disease caused by serogroup B bacteria have been associated with the University. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended the use of a vaccine for certain members of the University community. The vaccine is licensed for use in Europe, Australia and Canada, but not in the United States. 

The first dose of the meningitis B vaccine has been provided to 5,502 individuals, representing 95 percent of the approximately 5,800 University community members who were eligible to receive the vaccine. Of these, 5,139 individuals have received the second dose.

An email inviting students to participate in the study has been sent to eligible students, and students interested in taking part will be selected through a random sampling process. In order to be eligible, a potential participant must be a currently enrolled Princeton University student; have been eligible to receive the vaccine during the December 2013 and February 2014 vaccination clinics; and be 18 years of age or older. The study will take place on campus.

The study will collect and analyze blood samples to learn about the levels of antibody response against the outbreak strain following vaccination, and to investigate other aspects of immune response and the impact of vaccination. Basta expects preliminary results to be available within a year after the study is completed.

"Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools of disease prevention ever developed," said Basta. "Studying the immune response to vaccines on the individual and population levels yields valuable information, enabling us to develop more effective strategies for preventing and controlling infectious diseases and reducing public health threats both in our community and worldwide."