Bangladesh begins world's largest cholera vaccine trial

Bangladesh launched the world’s largest trial of an inexpensive oral cholera vaccine this week that holds the potential to save thousands of lives each year if it is successful.

Oral vaccines have long been available but are considered too expensive to give out on a wide scale, according to health officials, the AFP reports.

The new study includes 240,000 people from one of Dhaka’s poorest suburbs, Mirpur, two-thirds of which will receive two does of the cheap, Indian-made vaccine. The remaining 80,000 people will not be given the vaccine as the control group. Both groups will be monitored for the next four years.

This study will determine if the drug is rolled out in a state-backed mass vaccination or not. If the results are positive, other poor countries like Haiti, which recently suffered a cholera outbreak killing over 4,000 people, would have interest.

"It's the biggest cholera vaccination study in the world," Nasmeen Ahmed of the International Center for Diarrheal Diseases Research - Bangladesh, said, according to the AFP. “A successful outcome could prompt governments in countries where cholera has been a big health problem to go for a mass vaccination drive. It is a critical study to know how a government can vaccinate millions of people against cholera."

The World Health Organization has estimated that up to 120,000 deaths occur each year from cholera, with close to five million people contracting the disease annually.