Results of a medical trial, which could lead to the widespread vaccination of children against deadly meningitis B, have been hailed by child health experts.
A large majority of infants given a new test drug achieved a robust immune response against strains of the disease, according to data presented by pharmaceutical giant Novartis.
This could eventually lead to a vaccine that would save the lives of thousands of children, said the charity Meningitis UK.
Meningitis B is the most common form of the disease, causing up to 80% of cases in the UK. It is also one of the most deadly, with symptoms that can kill within 24 to 48 hours of onset. But it has been the hardest to immunise against due to its complex nature. There are no widespread vaccines in existence.
Scientists examining the potential of Novartis's Multicomponent Meningococcal Serogroup B Vaccine (4CMenB) against the disease, gave injections to 3,600 infants as part of an ongoing trial.
They found that the large majority of babies displayed a robust immune response against three strains of Meningitis B causing bacteria. In addition, it was seen to be have an acceptably low level of adverse reaction when given in conjunction with other infant vaccines. This suggests it could be used as a vaccine in the first year of life - when it is most needed.
The results of the trial were presenting at a conference in Banff, Canada.
Dr Andrew Pollard, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at Oxford University, said: "The encouraging data presented on 4CMenB indicate the potential for additional protection to be provided by this new vaccine."
Paul Langford, Chair of Meningitis UK's Scientific Advisory Panel, said: "If the promise shown by this vaccine can be translated to the clinic, and is as successful as the meningococcal group C vaccine introduced in 1999, there is the prospect of elimination of most meningococcal disease from the UK and saving thousands of lives in the future."