November 23, 2007 / 12:03 AM / 12 years ago

Glaxo rotavirus vaccine highly effective

Andrew Witty, who has been chosen as the new CEO of GlaxoSmithKline is seen in this undated handout photograph, received in London on October 8, 2007. GlaxoSmithKline's Rotarix vaccine given along with other routine infant shots is highly effective at protecting against rotavirus, the most common cause of severe diarrhoea in young children, researchers said on Friday. REUTERS/GlaxoSmithKline/Handout

LONDON (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK.L) Rotarix vaccine given along with other routine infant shots is highly effective at protecting against rotavirus, the most common cause of severe diarrhoea in young children, researchers said on Friday.

New data from a large European trial, published in the Lancet journal, showed the oral vaccine worked against the five most commonly circulating rotavirus types — G1, G2, G3, G4 and G9 — responsible for 98 percent of rotavirus gastroenteritis.

The researchers found that after one dose of the vaccine, 24 out of 2,572 infants given the vaccine had rotavirus gastroenteritis episodes of any severity compared to 94 out of 1,302 given placebo, giving a vaccine efficacy of 87.1 percent.

Vaccine efficacy after two doses over two rotavirus seasons remained high at 78.9 percent and was 90.4 percent against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis, Timo Vesikari of Finland’s University of Tampere and colleagues reported.

“Our study findings show that, if integrated into routine infant immunization schedules, vaccination with RIX4414 (Rotarix) could result in significant reduction not only of rotavirus disease burden but also of severe paediatric gastroenteritis during the first two years of life,” they said.

Rotavirus kills an estimated 611,000 children worldwide every year, the vast majority of them in Africa and Asia, and the arrival of a new generation of oral vaccines against the disease has been welcomed by healthcare workers.

But some experts caution against assuming that vaccines like Glaxo’s Rotarix and Merck & Co’s (MRK.N) rival product RotaTeq will work equally well in all countries.

In a commentary in the Lancet, Australian paediatric experts Keith Grimwood and Julie Bines said virus diversity in Africa and Asia meant no global vaccination recommendations could be made until vaccine trials were completed in these regions.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Cowell

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