New vaccines against rotavirus, "the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants," can prevent or lessen the severity of an epidemic, protect unvaccinated children and increase the age of first infection, lessening the severity of the disease, according to a study published in the journal Science, Bloomberg reports.
Rotavirus "is rarely fatal in the U.S., but remains a major killer of children in less developed countries," HealthDay News/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.
Using mathematical models, a team of U.S. researchers found that when 80 percent of children in a geographic area receive vaccination, "annual outbreaks of rotavirus would be less frequent and more unvaccinated children would be protected from the illness," Bloomberg writes.
The researchers were able to validate the model's predictions by using U.S. data from 2007-2008, which represent "when vaccination first reached appreciable coverage levels in the U.S.," according to a CDC release. "This research not only explains the effects of the U.S. rotavirus vaccination program, but also lays the foundation for understanding the tremendous life-saving benefits of vaccination in the developing world, where more than half a million children die from rotavirus each year," said study author Umesh Parashar of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
CBC News adds: The study revealed that "there was little relation between the virus prevalence and climate or environmental conditions," but rather pointed to children as what the authors called "the 'primary drivers of epidemics.' They suggest vaccination of young children in areas with high birth rates could lead to a drop in the number of epidemics and the severity of the cases for all population groups".