Meningitis is a devastating disease that represents a major global health challenge. Bacterial meningitis has a high death rate, and many people who recover face lifelong disability. The epidemic potential of meningitis is also a major cause for concern given the catastrophic impact on health systems, the economy and society as a whole, especially in low-income countries.
The introduction of successful immunisation programmes against three of the main bacterial causes of meningitis has enabled major progress in the fight against meningitis, sepsis, and pneumonia.
Despite this, progress still lags substantially behind that of other infectious diseases: according to a recent estimate, between 1990 and 2016, child meningitis deaths fell by just 21%, compared to 93% for measles, 91% for tetanus and 58% for diarrhoea.
There therefore remains much to be done in order to sustainably reduce the burden of disease around the world in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Establishing a Global Meningitis Genome Partnership: The establishment of the Partnership is an integral part of the new WHO Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030. Developed by a World Health Organization-led task force, the Roadmap offers the ideal opportunity to create a new vision for the role that whole genome sequencing can play in defeating meningitis, particularly through improving the global surveillance of the leading causes of bacterial meningitis.
The bacteria that cause meningitis can rapidly travel the globe, therefore gathering genetic information from across the world is vital to defeating it.