Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhea, the second largest killer of children across the world, and vaccines to contain the virus can change the situation dramatically, a study has confirmed.
Expanding access to vaccines for rotavirus could save tens of thousands of lives and help avoid hundreds of thousands of hospitalisations, thereby improving the lives of children and families while at the same time reducing significant burden on the health care costs, says the study published in medical journal The Lancet.
The Global Enteric Multicentre Study (GEMS), involving 20,000 children from across Asia and Africa, is the largest study ever conducted on diarrheal diseases in developing countries.
Analysing data from the study, researchers found that approximately one in five children under the age of two suffer from moderate-to-severe diarrhea (MSD) each year, which increased children's risk of death 8.5-fold and lead to stunted growth over a two-month follow-up period.
"Without a full picture of which pathogen causes the most harm, it had been difficult to make evidence-based decisions around diarrheal disease control," said Dipika Sur, principal investigator, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Kolkata.
GEMS will fill in the critical gaps in knowledge about the disease and help governments to prioritise resources for research and action to reduce the burden of the disease, Sur added.
More than 100,000 children die from diarrhea in India every year, and approximately 4,57,000- 8,84,000 are hospitalised with the disease.
Nearly 800,000 deaths are caused by diarrhea across the world.
The findings of the study also suggest that longer-term monitoring and care of children with diarrhea could reduce mortality and developmental delays.
Across most study sites, children with moderate-to-severe diarrhea grew significantly less in height in the two months following the diarrheal episode.
Notably, 61 percent of deaths occurred more than one week after children were diagnosed with diarrhea when children may no longer be receiving care.
The disease caused 56 percent of deaths at home, suggesting that a focus only on deaths occurring at health centres may underestimate the total burden of diarrhea.