An appeal by UK’s biggest meningitis charity is being backed by Dr Mark Porter, presenter of Radio 4′s flagship medical series Inside Health and medical correspondent for The Times.

Meningitis Now has launched a national appeal to expand its preventative research programme and is hoping to raise £15,000.

The charity’s executive founder, Steve Dayman, said: “Thirty families a day face this devastating disease. We need to eradicate it completely and we can only hope to do this by investing in a wider research programme.

“Over the last year we’ve invested over £1 million in research projects, but we need to do even more if we hope to be successful in achieving our vision for the future – where no one in the UK loses their life to meningitis and everyone affected gets the support they need to rebuild their lives.

“Research is essential to improve the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and outcomes of meningitis.

“But, with no government funding, we can only continue to fund our research programme and make future breakthroughs with the generous help of our supporters and the wider public – please support us today.”

In the last 30 years, through investing in preventative research, the charity has achieved some major breakthroughs and helped to save thousands of lives.

It has played a major role in the development and introduction of Hib, meningitis C and pneumococcal vaccines. It is also leading the fight for the meningitis B vaccine, currently only available privately, to be introduced into the UK Childhood Immunisation Programme.

Mr Dayman said: “With the availability of a vaccine for meningitis B many people think that meningitis is beaten. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

“There are many other types of the disease for which there is no vaccine – Group B streptococcal for example.

"Every week there are about six new cases of meningitis in babies under three months old, and at least a quarter of these will either die or be left with serious, life-long complications. Group B streptococcal bacteria cause about half of these.”

Dr Porter said: “Meningitis is every parent’s nightmare. It can kill in hours, devastate families and terrify communities.

“Anyone can contract the disease. Meningitis kills more children under five than any other infectious disease in the UK, and around a third of survivors are left with some form of life changing after effect.

“Effective vaccines are available to prevent some types, but not all. We’re working towards a meningitis-free UK but we need your help now more than ever to make this happen. Please help us today as we fight back against meningitis.”

About £25 can pay for one hour of crucial in-depth research into new and improved preventative vaccines while £15,000 is the cost of a recent research project commissioned by the charity estimating the total burden of invasive meningococcal disease.

Visit the website, text MNOW10 and an amount of £3, £5 or £10 to 70070, call Jenny Heslegrave at Meningitis Now on 01453 769082 or send a cheque payable to Meningitis Now to Meningitis Now, Fern House, 104 Bath Road, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL5 3TJ.