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.
AdvertisementThe results were a major step towards widespread protection against rotavirus for newborns, said Julie Bines of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Australia.
"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 said.
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 Ruth Bishop in 1973.