Study: Rotavirus causes many diarrhea-related deaths in developing world

Rotavirus is the single greatest cause of diarrhea-related death and illness in developing countries, according to a recent comprehensive study published in The Lancet.

The findings of the study suggest that a large number of children are dying from vaccine-preventable rotavirus and they support GAVI Alliance's decision to prioritize rotavirus vaccines. GAVI plans to help 30 countries to introduce rotavirus vaccine by 2015.

"One in every 260 children born globally will die of rotavirus before their fifth birthday, that's more than 1,200 a day or eight children every ten seconds," Seth Berkley, the CEO of the GAVI Alliance, said. "These latest findings strongly reinforce GAVI's decision to roll out of rotavirus vaccines as part of routine immunization among infants in developing countries. But now there is an urgent need to accelerate this to expand the coverage. This is going to become an even more important part of GAVI's work."

The Global Enteric Multicenter Study was a three-year study that enlisted more than 22,000 children in the developing world to map the role of 40 known pathogens in childhood diarrheal disease. The study found that four pathogens were responsible for most cases of moderate to severe diarrhea.

"Worldwide, rotavirus accounted for more than 500,000 diarrhea-related deaths in 2004, most in developing countries," Uma Chandra Mouli Natchu and Shinjini Bhatnagar, scientists with the Haryana, India-based Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, said. "Therefore, rotavirus vaccination should be deployed in all countries, and efforts need to be made to increase access to affordable vaccines so that countries are able to introduce the vaccine quickly."

Other pathogens implicated in diarrhea-related deaths were enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli producing heat-stable toxin, Cryptosporidium and Shigella. Of the four pathogens most responsible for severe cases, rotavirus was by far the most common cause.