Princeton University received attention back in March 2013 following eight cases of infection from serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, and a total of nine cases associated with the university. To prevent further dissemination, administration of the meningitis vaccine against this strain was given to roughly five thousand students in late 2013. Recently, researchers at Princeton University have begun recruiting eligible students to enroll in a study seeking to elucidate the immunological response initiated by the vaccine.

Neisseria meningitidis  Image/CDC
Neisseria meningitidis

To elaborate, Neisseria meningitidis bacterial infection initiates a debilitating disease that induces inflammation of membranous layers surrounding the brain and spinal cord. According to the National Meningitis Association, 800- 1200 people in the United States contract meningococcal disease each year. Furthermore, this particular strain of N. meningitis is responsible for one-third of bacterial meningitis infections. While the FDA has approved vaccines against serogroups A, C, Y and W-135 meningococci, there was no licensed vaccine for serogroup B in the United States at the time of the outbreak- despite the fact that serogroup B is not less common than other strains with a licensed vaccine. To shorten the duration of outbreaks at Princeton, the FDA deemed the vaccine an “Investigational New Drug” thereby allowing administration in April, 2013.

Lead by infectious disease immunologist, Nicole Basta, researchers at Princeton University have recently begun a study seeking to determine the immune response initiated by the serogroup B meningitis vaccine. Potential subjects must be Princeton students whom were eligible for vaccine administration in 2013. Blood samples from chosen participants will allow for serum analysis and characterization of the pathological response following immunization. This study represents a remarkable opportunity to assess the efficacy of the serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis vaccine; knowledge of which is detrimental towards the prevention of future outbreaks.

Amanda Fisher is currently finishing up her M.S. in Biology at the University of Delaware where she studies pancreatic cancer under Dr. Huey-Jen Lee Lin. Her research interests range from cancer to rare genetic diseases and her future goals involve seeking treatment for these disorders via medical education and science communication efforts.