DAKAR, March 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An
inexpensive, heat-proof vaccine could mark a turning point in
expanding resistance to the diarrhoea-causing rotavirus
infection across sub-Saharan Africa, medical aid agency Medecins
Sans Frontieres said.
The new vaccine, known as BRV-PV, was tested in West African
country Niger, and shown to be safe and effective against
rotavirus, according to trial results published in the New
England Journal of Medicine this week.
Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea and kills
an estimated 1,300 children a day, mostly in Africa.
It is preventable, but the two existing vaccines must be
refrigerated at all times, making them difficult to transport
and administer in hot countries where electricity is unreliable.
The new vaccine does not require refrigeration, and costs
under $2.50 per treatment, about half the price of others.
"This is a game changer," said Medecins Sans Frontieres
(MSF) medical director Micaela Serafini.
"It's a vaccine that fits much more with what we believe are
the needs in Africa," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The low-cost and heat-stable aspects of the vaccine should
allow African countries to administer it on a larger scale than
is currently possible, she said.
Manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, it is also
adapted to the strains of rotavirus found in sub-Saharan Africa.
In an MSF trial involving more than 4,000 young children in
Niger, the vaccine had a 66.7 percent efficacy rate against
severe gastroenteritis, slightly less than existing vaccines but
still satisfactory, said Serafini.
There is also a shortage of the two vaccines now in use,
which the new one will help fill, she added.
"This (initiative) came out of frustration. We see so many
vaccines that are difficult to implement in the field," Serafini
MSF hopes to adapt other vaccines in similar ways, she
The vaccine is currently under review by the World Health
Organization and could be available in a matter of months, she
(Reporting by Nellie Peyton; editing by Megan Rowling; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change,
resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights.