Rotavirus vaccine trialled at Dunedin Hospital could save
more than half a million lives a year.
The University of Otago trial, involving 95 babies, found a
course of the new vaccine produced a strong immune response
in more than 90% of babies.
This was a major breakthrough because Rotavirus, as the most
common cause of severe diarrhoea among infants and young
children, kills more than 500,000 children aged under 5 every
year, mainly in developing countries.
As part of the trial, which was a collaboration with the
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute at the University of
Melbourne, babies received three doses of the vaccine, with
the first dose given soon after birth.
Otago University senior clinical lecturer in women and
children's health, Dr Pam Jackson, said it was ''pretty
cool'' being involved in research that could save so many
Developed in Melbourne, the oral vaccine was tested in
Dunedin because one of the Melbourne researchers was an Otago
graduate and, by the time it was ready for testing, another
vaccine had been rolled out in Australia, Dr Jackson said.
The new vaccine had significant benefits over the present
one, as it could be given to newborns.
This not only gave ''early protection'' but also meant it
would be easier to implement in poorer countries.
''In Third World countries, often ... people don't have any
contact with medical professional or healthcare
professionals, but they might at the time of delivery of the
The fact it was developed by university researchers would
also make it ''much'' cheaper than if it had been developed
by a pharmaceutical company.
She wanted to thank families for their participation, and the
Health Research Council of New Zealand, which funded the
''Without their willingness to help, this would have been
difficult to assess, and we are delighted that this vaccine
has been shown to be an effective way to prevent this
Lead researcher Prof Julie Bines, of Melbourne, said the
results provided confidence the vaccine would be effective.
''Not only have we shown that this novel vaccine is well
tolerated in newborns, but it produces a strong immune
response in a newborn, suggestive of promoting early
protection from severe gastroenteritis,'' she said.
The results will be presented at the 11th International
Rotavirus Symposium under way in New Delhi, India.
Clinical trials had also begun in Indonesia and it was hoped
the vaccine would be available for widespread use in 2016.
In New Zealand, Rotavirus is responsible for 1500 hospital
admissions of children under 5 each year.