24 April 2020
Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective layers of the brain. It can be caused by many different pathogens, but the most dangerous forms are due to bacteria. These pathogens are transmitted through infected droplets or contact with the saliva of a person carrying the bacteria at the back of their throat; these healthy carriers are often asymptomatic. Vaccination is the most powerful prevention method to date; however, efficient vaccines are yet to be available for all the bacteria capable of causing meningitis.
Protective measures to avoid contact with contaminated droplets and saliva could also help in preventing the infection. It is important to note that asymptomatic carriers only rarely develop the disease; to date researchers don’t have a clear understanding of the factors that lead to the invasiveness of the bacteria and development of meningitis symptoms. This makes the disease and the large epidemics that can be seen recurrently in countries of the African meningitis belt completely unpredictable. Despite the efficacy of antibiotic treatments, the mortality rate of meningitis cases remains around 10% worldwide and this is without taking into account the consequences of severe sequalae that some of the survivors are left with (amputation, loss of hearing, cognitive disorders etc…). The difficulty of quick diagnosis in African countries makes management of the situation even harder, especially during epidemic periods. Therefore, it is crucial to explore all possibilities to prevent this disease.
With our project MOMIB , conduct by Dr Kanny Diallo, we are going to study the variations of the oropharyngeal microbiome in order to evaluate the role that it can play in the development of the healthy carriage of one of the bacteria causing meningitis; a known pre-requisite for the development of the disease. We hope that this will allow us to identify new preventive tools that will help us defeat meningitis.
The oropharyngeal microbiome dynamics and invasive bacterial diseases project will be implement in Côte d’Ivoire (Abidjan and Korhogo) within a collaboration between the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Cote d’Ivoire (CSRS), the West African Centre for Cell Biology and Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) in Ghana and the Francis Crick institute in the UK.