Thursday, June 6, 2013


Rotavirus infection is known to cause serious damage to health especially among infants and children and the symptoms include severe diarrhea and consequent dehydration leading to death if not properly treated. About half a million children are reported to be dying yearly world wide because of Rotavirus infection. The virus attacks the cells that line the small intestine causing diarrhea. Though about 2 million infections are reported world wide, it is believed that every child is exposed to this virus at least once till it reaches the age of 5. The most common of the 5 types, Rotavirus A accounts for 90% of the infection and vaccines are now available for infants for routine administration. Most children gain immunity if infected mildly and as they grow they do not face any threat subsequently. In the absence of reliable statistics about this infection in India, it is difficult to conclude as to how many cases of diarrhea occurring in the country can be attributed to this virus. Still the recent news that a low cost vaccine has been developed in India is indeed welcome. Here is the report which highlights the achievement of Indian virologists.

While two common vaccines against rotavirus made by GSK and Merck cost around Rs 900 per dose, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech plans to sell the Indian product at Rs 54 (one dollar) per dose. Children need three dosages at sixth, tenth and 14th weeks of their lives.   Developed after 28 years of research, the indigenous vaccine against rotavirus shows promise in clinical trials. The last part of the trial (phase–III) demonstrates 60 per cent efficacy and lesser number of deaths. The two commercial vaccines too have similar efficacy in India.  Diarrhoea is the third leading killer of children in India, accounting for 13 per cent of all deaths in children below five years and kills an estimated 3,00,000 children each year, almost half of which are caused by rotavirus. Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea causing 4,57,000 to 8,84,000 hospitalisations, two million outpatient visits and 1,22,000-1,53,000 deaths.  A Global Enteric Multicentre Study – published in the "Lancet" on Tuesday – showed one in five children in the developing countries of Asia and Africa below two years of age suffered from moderate-to-severe diarrhoea each year, which not only increased their risk of death 8.5 times more, but also led to stunted growth over a two-month follow-up period.
Viewed from a global perspective a vaccine that costs one twentieth of that made in developed countries can be of immense relevance to most nations in Asia, Africa and South America. If the vaccine is eventually produced commercially no effort should be spared to distribute the same to fellow countries for massive inoculation of infants at an early stage. International organizations like WHO and UNICEF must take action to promote this vaccine though there may be stiff resistance from the existing private vaccine manufacturing industry as it may impinge on their business.


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