College outbreak of meningitis could lead to risky drug plan

Public health officials said they sought permission from the government to use an unapproved...

Public health officials said they sought permission from the government to use an unapproved vaccine against an outbreak of meningitis among students at a college. (Fotolia)

REUTERS

, Last Updated: 12:04 AM ET

SACRAMENTO - Public health officials in California said on Thursday they had sought permission from the federal government to use a vaccine not approved for use in the United States against an outbreak of meningococcal disease among students in a California college.

The outbreak, which resulted in a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, having his feet amputated, is similar to one that has stricken eight students at Princeton University in New Jersey, where students began receiving the European and Australian vaccine this week.

Most strains of the bacteria that cause the sometimes fatal central nervous system infection meningitis as well as a blood disease can be controlled with a vaccine that is widely available in the United States.

But the vaccine that protects against serotype B of the infection has not been submitted for approval in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Students at Princeton began receiving that vaccine earlier this week, after the CDC n intervened on their behalf.

When the California outbreak was announced, the CDC said it wanted to wait, in part to see if the disease spread to more students.

Late on Thursday, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health said in an email to Reuters that the state had formally asked the CDC to request permission from U.S. regulators to use the vaccine, called Bexsero, to protect students in California.


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