The Department of Health has put out a call for researchers to undertake a national study to assess the effect of the meningitis B vaccine in preventing adolescents from carrying the meningococcal B bacteria.

While the public health minister committed to funding this study back in April 2016 after a major public petition and campaign to extend the scope of the immunisation programme, the £1.3 million fund for teenage evaluation has only now been confirmed.

Meningococcal B infection is the single largest cause of life-threatening meningitis in the UK. The disease has a death rate of about 10 percent, while around 20 percent of those who survive may suffer a major physical or neurological disability, such as limb loss, hearing loss or seizures.

GSK's vaccine Bexsero - the only licensed vaccine against meningitis B - was introduced in the UK in 2015 for babies aged under one, but this group accounts for just a quarter of cases, leaving older groups at risk from the disease.

In the UK, teenagers are more likely to carry the meningococcal bacteria in the back of their nose and throat than any other age group, and the study seeks to determine whether vaccinating them could prevent the spread of infection to others in the hope of better protecting the entire population.

"Meningitis and septicaemia are deadly diseases that can kill or disable people in just a few hours. We're delighted that this study has been given the go ahead," said Vinny Smith, chief executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation.

"We hope that the findings from this study will mean that the wider population can also finally be protected from MenB".

The DH is now asking for outline proposals for the research, which is due to begin later this year.