Rotavirus is an important cause of diarrhea worldwide.

In May 2013, researchers reported that this virus causes 111 million cases of diarrhea each year in our world. Rotavirus can cause children under the age of 5 to become severely dehydrated. If not treated this dehydration can lead to death. Rotavirus infection results in 25 million visits to a clinics, places 2 million patients in the hospital and kills between 352,000 and 592,000 people each year worldwide. By age 5 every child will have had one episode of rotavirus diarrhea. One in 5 of these children will visit a clinic, 1 in 65 will be hospitalized and 1 in 293 will die. They were also able to demonstrate that 82 percent of the children that die are from the poorest countries in the world. This virus kills and is especially deadly to young children. At one time it was thought that rotavirus infections would be a thing of the past. That was because a vaccine, called RotaShield, had been developed that protected nearly every child when taken properly. In fact my youngest child took this vaccine when just a baby with no problems at all. Unfortunately, the vaccine was removed from the market in 1999 because it was associated with a severe but rare complication called intussussception. Intussussception is a condition in which the bowel telescopes into itself and can cause life-threatening bowel blockage.

Researchers have come up with a new rotavirus vaccine that is taken orally and does not appear to cause intussusseption. This vaccine is a live attenuated viral vaccine. A live attenuated rotavirus vaccine is a modified rotavirus that can infect the cells of the intestine however it does not cause disease when it infects. The body will mount an immune response to the infected cells so that when a person immunized with this vaccine is exposed to a disease-causing rotavirus they eliminate the virus before it can cause disease. The is being tested in 11 countries in Latin America and in Finland. So far 30,000 children have gotten the vaccine with no severe complications. The vaccine appears to protect up to 90 percent of patients from severe rotavirus infection. The vaccine is given orally in two different doses.

There are a few more studies that need to be conducted but in the not to distant future we may again have a vaccine that could potentially, if used worldwide, save around 290,000 lives per year.