HC Deb 12 January 1987 vol 108 cc120-1W
Dr. Marek

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if he will provide additional funds for research into meningitis and related bacterial infections; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if he will provide additional funding for the Public Health Laboratory Service to enable it to produce serum, and to conduct field and clinical trials in the United Kingdom at the earliest possible date in order to combat the present level of meningococcal meningitis.

(3) what account will be taken of existing toxicity trials and tests of Dr. Frasch's trials vaccine for meningococcal meningitis in any consideration given to the licensing of such vaccines in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement;

(4) what results have been obtained, and what progress is being made in combating meningococcal meningitis, as a result of Dr. Carl Frasch's visit in April 1986 to Porton Down;

(5) what co-operation is taking place between British and Norwegian authorities on research on parallel vaccine development for meningococcal meningitis; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Currie

The Department has already provided £57,000 to fund current research on meningitis in Gloucestershire, and is always prepared to consider other proposals. No proposal has been received relating to production of blood product serum to treat meningitis. I understand that the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) has already considered and discounted this possibility.

Research is continuing at the PHLS's centre for applied microbiological research (CAMR) Porton Down, to develop a vaccine against group B type 15 strains of meningococcal meningitis (which predominate in this country). CAMR is using the techniques pioneered by Dr. Carl Frasch and colleagues in developing a vaccine against group B type 2 strains of the disease, and trials already conducted on that vaccine will certainly be taken into account so far as they are relevant when any vaccine developed in this country reaches its own clinical trial stage. It has to be emphasised, however, that development of any new vaccine requires long and painstaking work in the laboratory at the outset.

Dr. Frasch attended a meeting on meningococcal vaccines at the PHLS last September, as did experts from Norway and Finland. Information was freely exchanged, and PHLS and the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control will continue to keep in touch with colleagues abroad.