Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A New Vaccine Against a Diarrhea-Causing Virus

A new vaccine may represent an improvement over older vaccines against a deadly virus that causes severe diarrhea in children. The virus, called rotavirus, kills over 200,000 children under the age of five each year, mostly in Pakistan, India, and the African continent.

Current rotavirus vaccines have two drawbacks; they are only partially effective, and they require refrigeration. The need for refrigerated transport and storage of a vaccine or medicine is a real problem in very poor and very rural environments, where infrastructure is inadequate and even the availability of electricity may be sporadic. The new vaccine, called Rotasiil, is manufactured by an Indian company and was tested in Niger, where it proved to be 67% effective; as good or better other vaccines currently available. It does not need to be refrigerated, it can be delivered orally, and as an added bonus it's expected to be inexpensive, or at least cheaper than other available vaccines.

Over 200,000 childhood deaths a year, and you've probably never even heard of rotavirus! In the U.S., rotavirus infection is rare because vaccination against rotavirus is just part of the normal childhood vaccination schedule; its given as either one or two doses before the age of six months. Just goes to show that there are a lot of pretty nasty bugs out there, and not everyone in the world is equally protected against them.

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