A new vaccine against the deadly rotavirus is being developed in Melbourne, Australia that, unlike current vaccines, has the potential to protect infants from birth.
Currently, children cannot receive vaccinations against rotavirus until they reach six weeks of age. According to TheAge.com, testing of RV-3 on infants between six and eight weeks has already begun, and if it is determined to be safe, babies as young as one day old could be administered the vaccine in trials. The vaccine could be on the market in less than five years and at a lower cost than current products.
Professor Ruth Bishop, who discovered rotavirus in 1973 and is a member of the RV-3 development team at Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, told TheAge.com that the new vaccine has the potential to be a breakthrough to poorer nations.
"Children in our community have access to prompt medical treatment and rehydration, but in developing countries, the tragedy is that so many lives have been lost and continue to be lost,'' Bishop told TheAge.com.
It is thought that healthcare workers should attempt to give the vaccine at birth to infants in neo-natal clinics in the developing world before they return to their communities, where access can become more difficult.
Rotavirus remains the leading cause of dehydrating diarrheal illness and death in all children under the age of five. Annually, two million children are hospitalized due to its effects and approximately 500,000 die.