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India Reports New Vaccine Effective Against Rotavirus

Update Date: May 14, 2013 12:00 PM EDT
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Rotavirus, which is transmissible through human-to-human contact, is a virus that leads to the inflammation of the stomach and intestines, known as gastroenteritis. Rotavirus causes severe diarrhea accompanied with fever, vomiting and abdominal pain. Rotavirus is currently one of the leading causes of death in children living in developing countries. Over half a million children with about 100,000 of them from India die from this virus per year. Today, India announced that the new rotavirus vaccine it has been developing has proven to be effective in a Phase III trial.

The government run clinical trial recruited 6,799 infants from three different locations within India. During this part of the trial, the researchers found that the vaccine was able to reduce the number of severe cases of diarrhea tied to the virus. Severe cases of diarrhea can lead to deaths in children due to dehydration and other complications. In the trial, the number of cases decreased by 56 percent within the first year after birth.

"The clinical results indicate that the vaccine, if licensed, could save the lives of thousands of children each year in India," Dr. K. Vijay Raghavan, stated. Raghavan is the secretary of the Department of Biotechnology. If the vaccine proves to work, the government has also pledged to sell the vaccine for one dollar a dose, which would make vaccinations for children in poorer countries more accessible.

There are currently two other vaccines on the market but these options are significantly more expensive. In an agreement with pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck, the GAVI Alliance managed to get the rotavirus vaccines for $2.50 per dose. This alliance aims to provide the vaccines to 30 countries in total. It currently has programs that help deliver the vaccines to 14 countries. However, a third supplier would help expand the marketplace and provide a more affordable option.

The vaccine is still waiting for its license and approval by the World Health Organization (WHO) before it can be on the market and used globally. The vaccine was first developed after researchers took a sample of a strain of the virus from an infected child in New Delhi. With the combined efforts of the Indian government, the Indian company Bharat Biotech, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the sample was use to make this new vaccines.

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