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Meningitis and climate: from science to practice

Perez García-Pando, Carlos; Thomson, Madeleine C.; Stanton, Michelle; Diggle, Peter; Hopson, Thomas; Pandya, Rajul; Miller, Ronald L.; Hugonnet, Stéphane

Meningococcal meningitis is a climate sensitive infectious disease. The regional extent of the Meningitis Belt in Africa, where the majority of epidemics occur, was originally defined by Lapeysonnie in the 1960s. A combination of climatic and environmental conditions and biological and social factors have been associated to the spatial and temporal patterns of epidemics observed since the disease first emerged in West Africa over a century ago. However, there is still a lack of knowledge and data that would allow disentangling the relative effects of the diverse risk factors upon epidemics. The Meningitis Environmental Risk Information Technologies Initiative (MERIT), a collaborative research-to-practice consortium, seeks to inform national and regional prevention and control strategies across the African Meningitis Belt through the provision of new data and tools that better determine risk factors. In particular MERIT seeks to consolidate a body of knowledge that provides evidence of the contribution of climatic and environmental factors to seasonal and year-to-year variations in meningococcal meningitis incidence at both district and national scales. Here we review recent research and practice seeking to provide useful information for the epidemic response strategy of National Ministries of Health in the Meningitis Belt of Africa. In particular the research and derived tools described in this paper have focused at “getting science into policy and practice” by engaging with practitioner communities under the umbrella of MERIT to ensure the relevance of their work to operational decision-making. We limit our focus to that of reactive vaccination for meningococcal meningitis. Important but external to our discussion is the development and implementation of the new conjugate vaccine, which specifically targets meningococcus A.

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Title
Earth Perspectives
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1186/2194-6434-1-14