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New vaccine for condition that kills 500,000 children a year

In a study of more than 68,000 infants published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine, the investigational vaccine Rotateq demonstrated that it can safely prevent 98 percent of severe cases of viral diarrhea and vomiting that account for 2 million hospital visits and 500,000 pediatric deaths each year worldwide.

In one of the largest pre-licensure vaccine clinical trials ever conducted worldwide, research championed by an Eastern Virginia Medical School investigator demonstrated that the oral vaccine Rotateq virtually eliminated the most severe cases of rotavirus, a common childhood virus that sometimes becomes deadly.

"This is good news for children everywhere," said principal investigator David O. Matson, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) and head of infectious diseases at EVMS' Center for Pediatric Research. "In a matter of hours, vomiting and diarrhea from rotavirus can lead to dehydration, which can result in hospitalization and even be life-threatening."

Rotavirus causes about 70,000 hospital admissions in the United States annually, or about five percent of all pediatric admissions. It also results in 250,000 visits each year to U.S. emergency rooms.

In the developing world, where prompt hospitalization and effective treatment may not be available, rotavirus kills half a million infants a year, about one child each minute. Matson, widely regarded as one of the nation's leading rotavirus researchers, has studied the virus for over two decades.

"Development of a safe and effective rotavirus vaccine has been a worldwide priority since the virus was discovered in the 1970s," Matson said. "It became clear at that time that it was one of the major killers of children, and there was no effective treatment."

Rotavirus is endemic and infections occur in almost all children. The severity of rotavirus infection ranges from no symptoms to dehydrating gastroenteritis that can be fatal.

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Contact: Doug Gardner
GardneDA@evms.edu
757-446-6070
Eastern Virginia Medical School
4-Jan-2006


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