WEDNESDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Human rotavirus vaccine significantly reduces the incidence of severe rotavirus gastroenteritis and diarrhea-related mortality, according to two studies in the Jan. 28 New England Journal of Medicine.
Shabir A. Madhi, M.D., of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and colleagues randomly assigned 4,939 infants in South Africa and Malawi to receive either two vaccine doses, three vaccine doses, or placebo. They found that the rate of severe rotavirus gastroenteritis was significantly lower in the pooled vaccine group than in the placebo group (1.9 versus 4.9 percent), resulting in a vaccine efficacy of 61.2 percent.
Vesta Richardson, M.D., of the Ministry of Health in Mexico City, and colleagues compared diarrhea-related mortality rates in Mexican children under 5 years of age before and after the phased introduction of a monovalent rotavirus vaccine in 2006 to 2007. Overall, they found that the annual mortality rate declined from 18.1 to 11.8 per 100,000 children, observing reductions of 41 percent among infants 11 months and under, and 29 percent in children aged 12 to 23 months.
"We now have another powerful weapon to add to our armamentarium to combat deaths from diarrhea -- rotavirus vaccines," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "The vaccines should be introduced immediately in areas with high mortality from rotavirus infection, and their introduction should be used to energize diarrhea-control programs and improve coverage for all the proven interventions for diarrhea. It is time to act to combat the 1.8 million unnecessary deaths from diarrhea that continue to occur each year."
The first study was supported by GlaxoSmithKline; several authors reported financial relationships with the company.