Scientists believe they may have found a way to protect people against every strain of meningitis.
Scientists say further research is needed
Researchers at the University of Surrey have developed a vaccine which protects mice against the deadly disease.
While much more research is needed, they believe it could be an important first step towards creating a single vaccine to protect humans.
A vaccine against the A and C strains of the disease exists. However, there is no jab against the lethal B strain.
It infects around 3,000 Britons a year and kills hundreds. One in 10 children who contract the disease die from it. Many others are left severely handicapped.
The scientists used genetic engineering technology to create a strain of meningitis B that is incapable of causing disease.
They injected this strain into the mice. They found that the mice's immune systems created antibodies to fight all three strains of the disease.
The scientists said the findings suggest it may be possible to create a single vaccine to protect against each strain.
They are now planning further research to identify the proteins in the genetically-engineered strain that trigger this immune response.
"At the moment, it isn't a vaccine," said Professor Johnjoe McFadden, who led the study.
"What we need to do is identify the proteins in this strain that cause this cross reaction.
"We hope we will be able to complete this work within three years," he told BBC News Online.
"However, we need additional funding if we are to press ahead with this work. At the moment, we don't have funding to take this research forward."
The Meningitis Trust which funded the original research welcomed the findings.
"Developing any vaccine is incredibly complex and meningitis is a very difficult bug to beat," said spokesman Will Guyatt.
"This research marks an important contribution to the development of a vaccine against this potentially fatal and devastating disease.
"The unique thing about this research is that it provides hope for a complete vaccine protecting people against all types of the meningococcal bacteria - the most common cause of meningitis worldwide.
"We believe that vaccines are the only way of defeating this disease."
The study is published in the journal Infection and Immunity Journal.