A new rotavirus vaccine developed in Melbourne is protecting newborn babies
from a common cause of severe diarrhoea, which kills about five lakh children
aged under five around the world each year.
Nine out of 10 children showed a strong immune response to the vaccine after
receiving a first dose within days of birth and subsequent doses at two and
four months. The positive results, from a New Zealand trial in which 95 babies
were given the vaccine, were presented at the International Rotavirus Symposium
in India on Thursday.
The results were a major step towards widespread protection against
rotavirus for newborns, said Julie Bines of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute
"The advantage of this vaccine is the birth dose, which is the earliest
opportunity to provide protection to babies from severe rotavirus
gastroenteritis. This world-first approach has enormous potential to reduce
disease and dying in the most vulnerable children around the world," she
Development of the vaccine is being led by academic institutions, in a bid
to keep it affordable for the countries, where most rotavirus deaths occur and
current vaccines are not widely available.
Professor Bines said one of the barriers to a widespread rollout of the
current rotavirus vaccine in developing countries was inadequate follow-up
healthcare for babies, but providing the new vaccine at birth before families
returned to their communities helped overcome the issue.
Researchers believe the vaccine offers some protection after a single dose,
but they need to do further researches to establish how much.
Trials of the new vaccine are also under way in
Indonesia, where about 10,000 babies die from rotavirus gastroenteritis
each year. Researchers hope the vaccine will be widely available by 2016.
Rotavirus was discovered by a team led by Murdoch institute microbiologist