Vaccine Found for Killer Strain of Diarrhea

Author:  Atul Karki
Institution:  Institute of Medicine, Nepal

On June 5th 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that an anti-diarrheal vaccine has been approved for use. The vaccine targets the rotavirus, a vicious double-stranded RNA virus that is the leading cause of severe diarrhea among children.

Every year, the rotavirus causes over 500,000 deaths and over 2 million hospitalizations, mostly in the developing regions of Africa and South Asia. Although vaccines have been developed in the past, they have often suffered from serious side effects., which ave ruled out their widespread use. However, the approved vaccine has not been shown to suffer from these limitations.

Commercialised under several tradenames, including Rotarix and RotaTeq, the approved vaccine is a "live" virus which has been modified to reduce the virulence of the pathogen. This allows the body to build up a natural immunity to the virus for the future. The vaccine has already shown great potential in America and European populations and now the WHO`s Strategic Advisory Groups of Expert (SAGE) has recommended the vaccine to be included in the National Immunization Programs across the world.

"The new evidence and the WHO recommendation are major breakthroughs for the health of our children," said Dr. Oyewale Tomori, Vice Chancellor of Redeemer's University, Nigeria, who has served as Regional Laboratory Coordinator for the World Health Organization African Region.

Dr. Tomori believes that this break-through vaccine could play an important role in reducing the mortality rates of children in developing nations.