Meningitis is swelling and irritation
(inflammation) of the membranes
covering the brain and spinal cord.
This inflammation causes changes in
the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that
surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

A cheap new vaccine against
Meningitis A recently approved by the
World Health Organization (WHO) is
being described as a "game changer"
that will bring hope to the 430 million
people at risk of the disease in the
so-called Meningitis Belt, in
Sub-Saharan Africa.

The new vaccine is the result of a
collaboration between the Meningitis
Vaccine Project (MVP, a partnership
between the WHO and the non-profit
organization PATH which is funded by
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation),
and an Indian manufacturer, the
Serum Institute of India who will make
the vaccine at an agreed starting price
of 0.40 US dollars (30 UK pence) per

The disease is most prevalent in the
Meningitis Belt that stretches from
Senegal and the Gambia in the West
to Ethiopia in the East, with epidemics
occuring during the dry season from
December to June. An epidemic wave
can last up to three years, dying out
during the rainy season.

The size of the epidemics in Africa is
staggering: in the 1990s when there
was a Meningitis C outbreak in the UK
it killed 1,000 people, meanwhile at the
same time, a Meningitis A outbreak
killed more than 100,000 people in
Mass roll out of the new Meningitis A
vaccine will start this autumn in Mali,
Burkina Faso and Niger with backing
from Global Alliance for Vaccines and
Immunization (GAVI) and WHO.