City students join in lab trial to beat meningitis

meningitisBS''Michelle Bresnahan, research sister Alexandra Diaz and John Brenahan.
meningitisBS''Michelle Bresnahan, research sister Alexandra Diaz and John Brenahan.
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MORE than 300 Sheffield students are taking part in a pioneering medical trial that could help to save future generations from deadly meningitis.

The groundbreaking study at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital will see students inoculated with ‘friendly’ bacteria through nasal drops which could stop harmful bacteria living in the nose and throat.

The entire study has been financed by the parents of 16-year-old Ryan Bresnahan, who was killed by the disease last year.

They vowed the death of their son would not be in vain and set up an appeal to support the research of Meningitis UK.

Sheffield University Professor of Infectious Diseases, Robert Read, who is leading the study, said: “We are trying to discover a new way of preventing meningitis by administering friendly bacteria through nasal drops to prevent people catching unfriendly bacteria.

“This could be an important piece in the jigsaw in the fight against meningitis. As a clinician, every time you see another case of meningitis you wish it had been your last. Meningitis is often devastating and hits young, fit people who are otherwise completely well and sometimes leaves them with lasting disabilities.”

Ryan died within an hour of complaining of an upset stomach at home in Bristol in March 2010. It was one of the fastest cases of meningitis ever recorded, shattering the lives of the promising young sportsman’s family.

After 18 months of tireless fundraising, John and Michelle Bresnahan have raised more than £130,000.

Visiting the project launch at the Hallamshire hospital, Mr Bresnahan said: “After Ryan died we felt a burning need to do something proactive.

“All we could think was why isn’t there a vaccine to stop this terrible disease?

“Now we have the opportunity to gain a real understanding of the work and also to see our fundraising efforts turned into pioneering research.

“Ryan was simply too good to die, leaving us all with memories of just what might have been and a treasured sparkle when we remember him, that transcends any description we could possibly provide.

Mrs Bresnahan added: “We are so grateful to the generous students of Sheffield for giving their time to this study which could play an important part in saving the lives of future students like Ryan, who are full of promise and deserve to live a full and healthy life.”