Rotavirus is the most common cause of
severe diarrhoeal disease in infants and young children all over
It is thought to cause about 125 million cases
of diarrhoea and an estimated 600 000 deaths each year. It is highly
infectious and is spread by the oral-faecal route.
Infants and young children who become infected
with the virus suffer vomiting, fever and watery diarrhoea. Most
cases are mild, but in severe cases, these symptoms will cause life-threatening
dehydration if left untreated. Because infection is so common, most
children will develop immunity to the virus within their first two
to three years of life.
There are no appropriate drug treatments. Oral
rehydration therapy helps to save the lives of infected children
but does not prevent new infections. Therefore, a vaccine is needed.
The first to be licensed was last year withdrawn from the market
by its producer following large-scale surveillance in the United
States because of a possible link with intussusception (a blockage
of the intestine). Other vaccones against rotavirus are in development.
For more information see
More vaccines that are expected to be available