The promise of rotavirus vaccine in developing nations

September / October 2011 | Volume 10, Issue 5

The introduction of a rotavirus vaccine in the United States has brought unexpected benefits that could also prevent death and illness in the developing world, according to a commentary by Fogarty Director Dr. Roger I. Glass.

His analysis accompanied CDC study results demonstrating that vaccinating infants against rotavirus also prevents serious disease in unvaccinated older children and adults. Another result is a reduction of rotavirus-related hospital costs in these older groups. Both the study and the commentary were published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Glass, a recognized expert on rotavirus, which is a major cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children, noted that the study produced two surprises: a greater reduction in diarrheal hospitalizations than that which could be explained given lower rates of vaccine coverage, and the reduction of hospitalization rates in older children.

Glass speculated that a similar vaccination program could "make a big difference in our ability to prevent deaths and severe disease from rotavirus in the developing world." Some 600,000 children die annually as a result of rotavirus infections in low-income countries. "This study provides a strong impetus ... to determine whether the indirect effects seen here are at play once vaccines are introduced in those developing nations," Glass wrote.

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