NEWS of a potential meningitis B vaccine breakthrough has been welcomed by campaigners.

Pharmaceutical company Novartis has announced that a recent trial of a possible vaccine against the deadly disease has been successful.

Steve Dayman, chief executive of Meningitis UK, lost his own son Spencer to the disease in 1982.

Mr Dayman, from Alveston, has dedicated the last 28 years of his life to fundraising and campaigning to eradicate the killer disease.

He said: "The latest results from this study are very encouraging and we hope these promising developments will ultimately lead to a meningitis B vaccine that will be given to children in this country.

"This is obviously an exciting development, and one which our supporters across the country will welcome.

"While we sense that we’re getting closer to finding an elusive vaccine for meningitis B, there is still more work to be done."

Meningitis B is the most common form of the disease and is responsible for around 1,200 cases across the UK each year.

It is also one of the most deadly and can kill in under four hours. Approximately six per cent of all cases result in death, while 10 per cent of survivors are left with moderate or serious after-effects, such as limb amputations, deafness, blindness and brain damage.

Due to its complex nature, it has been the hardest to immunise against and there are no widespread vaccines in existence.

Scientists examining the potential of Novartis's Multicomponent Meningococcal Serogroup B Vaccine (4CMenB) gave injections to 3,600 infants as part of a trial.

They found that the large majority of babies displayed a robust immune response against three strains of meningitis B causing bacteria.

Chris Head, chief executive of Thornbury-based Meningitis Research Foundation, said: "A vaccine against meningitis B would be a tremendous achievement in the UK.

"These are indeed promising results against three strains of meningococcal B bacteria and we wait to hear how it responds against other strains of the disease."

Last year the Gazette, with the help of its readers, raised £40,000 for Meningitis UK, which it made the newspaper's charity of the year, to help fund the work of a vaccine researcher.