A standard paediatric vaccine for preventing common life-threatening infections can also be effective against pneumococcal meningitis in both children and adults, say researchers.
Pneumococcal meningitis is an infection in the brain and spinal cord membranes caused by the pneumococcus - a bacterium that also causes pneumonia and other serious infections.
While reviewing 1,379 cases of pneumococcal meningitis from 1998 through 2005, study authors found rates of the disease decreased in children and adults after the introduction of pediatric pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) in 2000.
PCV7 protects against seven of the most common pneumococcal types, which account for over 80 percent of pneumococcal disease in young children.
The incidence rates for pneumococcal meningitis in all age groups declined 30.1 percent from 1998-1999 to 2004-2005.
After PCV7 was made available, the incidence of meningitis decreased by 64 percent in children, and by 54 percent in older adults.
"When you immunize children, they are much less likely to carry pneumococcal strains covered by the vaccine in the back of the throat," New England Journal of Medicine quoted Dr. Lee Harrison, senior author of the study and professor of medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
"When vaccinated children don't carry these virulent strains, they don't end up transmitting them to other children, their parents and grandparents.
"PCV7 has been highly successful in preventing pneumococcal meningitis, but it remains a very serious and deadly disease," he added.