Researchers show rotavirus vaccine effective among African newborns

Researchers with the Mayo Clinic showed that a vaccine given to newborns in Ghana was at least 60 percent effective against rotavirus, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Mayo Clinic researchers and their colleagues from other institutions selected 998 newborns in Ghana for a double-blind, placebo trial from two of the nation's poorest areas. Half of the newborns received the oral reassortant rotavirus tetravalent vaccine in the first two months of life and the other half received a placebo. The results demonstrated the efficacy, safety and immune impact of the vaccine.

There is no neonatal rotavirus available and infants do not receive the first rotavirus vaccine dose until they are approximately two months old. The study administered one dose within the first 29 days of life and the second dose before 60 days of life.

"For the first time in a large-scale study, we have demonstrated that protection against rotavirus gastroenteritis can be achieved earlier in life," Robert Jacobson, the co-author of the study, said. "The next step should be additional studies in neonates to provide earlier protection against life-threatening rotavirus diarrhea. The rotavirus vaccines used in America and Europe are administered later -- when babies are two to four months old -- but younger infants also contract the virus in the first two months of life."

Rotavirus causes vomiting, fever and diarrhea, but it can cause severe dehydration in infants. In developing countries, rotavirus-related illness causes approximately 500,000 deaths annually.

"There is a huge protection gap right now in the first months of life," Jacobson said. "This study points to a clear and practical solution."