Hundreds of students are taking part in a groundbreaking clinical trial that aims to find a new way of preventing the deadly disease meningitis.

More than 300 students from England will be given nasal drops containing "friendly" bacteria as part of the trial, The Sheffield Star reported.

It is hoped the bacteria will stop harmful bacteria from living in the nose and throat, thereby halting the spread of meningitis.

"We are trying to discover a new way of preventing meningitis by administering friendly bacteria through nasal drops to prevent people catching unfriendly bacteria," Sheffield University's Robert Read, who is leading the study, told the newspaper. "This could be an important piece in the jigsaw in the fight against meningitis."

He added, "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."

The study is being financed by the parents of a 16-year-old boy, Ryan Bresnahan, who was killed by the disease last year.

Bresnahan died within an hour of complaining of an upset stomach at home in England, in March last year, in one of the quickest-striking cases of the disease ever recorded.

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