India accounts for 22% of global rotavirus-inducted diarrhoea deaths

,TNN | Oct 25, 2011, 07.29 AM IST

NEW DELHI: India recorded 98,621 rotavirus-inducted diarrhoea deaths in 2008, which is about 22% of global toll from the infection. 

Nigeria — the second worst-hit country — recorded about 41,000 deaths, or less than 50% of fatalities as compared to India. 

Pakistan (39,000) and Bangladesh (9,000) figures among the top 10 worst-affected nations grappling with rotavirus infection, says a study that appeared in medical journal, "The Lancet Infectious Diseases". It shows 453,000 deaths occurred due to the infection even though a vaccine was available. 

About 4.2 lakh (93%) of the total deaths were clustered in the poor countries of Asia and Africa. Less than 0.5% of the deaths occurred in high-income nations, many of whom have adopted universal rotavirus vaccination (URVV) programmes and also had low virus-related mortality. 

Five countries — Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan — accounted for more than half of all rotavirus-infection induced deaths. 

India is among the countries, which is yet to introduce a vaccine against rotavirus in its national immunization pogramme, but it is being used in private healthcare sector. 

The study, conducted by Dr Jacqueline Tate and Dr Umesh D Parashar of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, says, "one out of every 260 children born each year will die from diarrhoea caused by rotavirus infection by their fifth birthday. Worldwide in 2008, diarrhoea attributable to rotavirus infection resulted in deaths in 4.5 lakh children younger than five years — 37% of deaths attributable to diarrhoea and 5% of all deaths in children younger than five years." 

India is in the final stages of developing the first indigenous oral vaccine against rotavirus. The final phase-III "confirmatory" multi-centre clinical trial on 6,800 children, who are six weeks old, started this year at Society for Applied Studies in the national capital. Pune's KEM hospital and Christian Medical College in Vellore are the other two centres. 

The phase-II trials showed 90% protection, or "immunogenecity rate". This live attenuated oral vaccine based on the rotavirus strain 116E, which was discovered by the present secretary of the department of biotechnology (DBT) Dr MK Bhan in the 1980s, is being developed by Bharat Biotech International Limited, Hyderabad. 

Dr Nita Bhandari, chief coordinator of the trial from the Society for Applied Studies, said, "The vaccine is similar to oral polio drop. It will be given under the same regimen. There are two vaccines against the rotavirus in the market, but both are developed by Western firms. This will be the first vaccine developed by Indian researchers, and manufactured by an Indian company." 

The World Health Organization and the Global Initiative for Vaccines and Immunization have recommended the accelerated development and introduction of rotavirus vaccine as a priority. Each year, an estimated 1.8 million children die from diarrhoea, where the most common cause is rotavirus.