Researchers in the African country of Niger have introduced a new vaccine that protects against the diarrheal disease called rotavirus.

    A scientific test has shown that the new vaccine is effective, safe and easy to use. Experts believe it will be more widely used than the two rotavirus vaccines now given to children.

    A killer without a good vaccine

    The new vaccine is important because rotavirus is a serious illness that can lead to death. Rotavirus causes a severe infection of the gastro-intestinal tract. It kills more than 215,000 children each year -- about 600 a day.

    Two vaccines against rotavirus are already available. However, they are costly and difficult to use.

    They must also be kept cold. In many African countries where people suffer from rotavirus, refrigeration and electricity are unreliable.

    As a result, the existing rotavirus vaccines are not widely used.

    A new option

    Researchers have been working on a new vaccine for rotavirus called BRV-PV. They recently tested the vaccine with young children in Niger.

    Researchers gave 1,780 babies the BRV-PV vaccine. Only 31 cases of rotavirus developed in those babies.
    In contrast, 87 cases of rotavirus developed among the babies who received a treatment but did not get the real medicine. In other words, those babies were given a placebo.

    The researchers say the clinical trial shows that BRV-PV was nearly 67 percent effective.

    The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

    Three good results

    Dr. Emmanuel Baron is the director of Epicentre, a research group that is part of Doctors Without Borders, an aid group. Epicentre researchers conducted the clinical trial.
    伊曼纽尔·巴龙博士(Dr. Emmanuel Baron)是传染病研究中心(Epicentre)的负责人,这是医生无国界援助组织下的研究机构。传染病研究中心的研究人员进行了这项临床试验。

    "We saw actually three things. The first is that this vaccine is efficient. The second is that this vaccine is safe. And we also saw a good acceptability by both the care providers and the families."

    The new vaccine does not need refrigeration for up to six months. Medical workers mix it with liquid and give it to babies three times: when they are 6 weeks old, 10 weeks old, and 14 weeks old.

    Baron is happy the new vaccine is effective. But he wishes the success – or efficacy – rate was even higher.

    "We would love to have 95, 98, 100 percent efficacy. But we know that all vaccines do not work very well in African countries for reasons that are still unclear, probably due to immunological disorders. But we also know that this efficacy of about 70 percent is higher than any other vaccine in similar settings."

    The vaccine is expected to cost $6 for the three doses. The price will likely drop as more people are given the vaccine.

    Baron says medical workers in countries where rotavirus is a serious health threat are waiting for the World Health Organization to approve the vaccine. Then, medical workers can start giving the new vaccine to children.

    I'm Anne Ball.