Rochester Researchers Help Bring About New Vaccine for Infants

February 22, 2006

Repeated bouts of intestinal illnesses caused by the rotavirus in children up to about age 5 can now be prevented with a new vaccine universally recommended by a Center for Disease Control advisory panel Tuesday.

“With the addition of this vaccine during early well-child visits, parents and pediatricians can now reduce a children’s vomiting and diarrhea illness that can cause dehydration and hospitalization,” said Michael Pichichero, M.D., a pediatrician, professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and one of the researchers who tested the new vaccine nationwide. “Although death from a rotavirus infection is not common in the United States, the new vaccine could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives in third-world countries where children routinely die after being infected.”

The rotavirus, most common in the spring, has four main strains, which is why children experience repeated infections before building immunity to the virus. Children can experience vomiting and diarrhea, which can cause dehydration. Hospitalization is not often required, and most U.S. children are able to fight the illness with little medical intervention. However, the vaccine could prevent the physical suffering and costs related to doctor’s visits and missed work for parents.

The prototype of the vaccine that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month was first tested in Rochester through the University’s Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit. That unit, led by John Treanor, M.D., professor of medicine, has had a hand in testing dozens of new vaccine candidates, including nearly every new vaccine to be approved in the last three decades.

Pichichero’s private practice, Elmwood Pediatric Group on Lattimore Road, participated in clinical testing six years ago. Other local practices participated in later testing in a community-wide effort to facilitate the licensure of the vaccine. The new rotavirus vaccine was tested on 60,000 children, unlike an earlier vaccine that was pulled from the market after an unknown side effect was discovered.

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