Friday, 29 November 2013

India, the first developing country to produce a new vaccine

Diarrhea is a condition that involves the frequent passing of loose or watery stools. Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea among infants and young children. Almost 100,000 children in India die every year of painful viral diarrhoea caused by this virus. The Global Enteric Multicenter Study (GEMS), published in the latest issue of Lancet, shows diarrhoeal disease, which is responsible for one in every ten child deaths during the first five years of life worldwide, has the highest rate of incidence in India compared to other sites.

But now there is a good news. Indian scientists from Bharat Biotech Ltd in Hyderabad have developed a new oral vaccine against the Rota virus. If given in three doses, it can prevent children from a type of diarrhoea where both vomiting and loose motion can severely dehydrate children very quickly. This vaccine reduced severe Rota virus diarrhoea by more than 56 per cent during first year of life, with protection continuing into the second year of life. Moreover, the vaccine also showed impact against severe diarrhoea of any cause.

The vaccine was first identified by researchers at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi way back in 1985. Since then, with over $100 million in funding including that from the Indian government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it is now ready for use in children as soon as the regulatory approvals come through.

This is the first new vaccine developed in India. Also, India is the first developing country to do it. Experts have estimated that India spends almost Rs. 400 million every year in hospitalizations due to the Rota virus infection. Bharat Biotech says it can sell it for under Rs. 50 a dose for children. It does seem like affordable health care at its best.

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