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Rotavirus vaccination led to decrease in adult rotavirus rates as well as child rotavirus

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) One of the remarkable things about vaccines is that they can sometimes offer protection to people who don't receive them. This recently occurred with the rotavirus vaccine.

A recent study revealed that widespread vaccination of children against rotavirus also led to a decrease in rotavirus in adults.

This was true even though the adults did not receive the vaccinations themselves.

Rotavirus is a virus that causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It's the leading cause of diarrhea in babies worldwide. It can also cause vomiting, fever and stomach pain, and it can be fatal.

The researchers found that the decrease in rotavirus in adults was similar to the decrease seen in children after childhood vaccination became routine.

"Vaccinate your children."

The study, led by Evan J. Anderson, MD, of the Departments of Pediatrics and Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, compared adults in the years 2006 to 2007 to the years 2008-2010.

The first rotavirus vaccine became available for use in February 2006, and then a second one was released in April 2008. During the 2006-2007 period, then, the adults studied would not have been around children fully vaccinated for rotavirus.

The researchers looked for evidence of the actual rotavirus bug in stool samples of 3,530 adults.

They found that 4.35 percent of the stool samples had the virus in 2006-2007, and this percentage dropped to 2.24 percent in 2008-2010.

Therefore, the incidence of rotavirus dropped by about half in adults after routine rotavirus vaccination of children was started.

Approximately 30 percent of the adults who had rotavirus in their stools from both sets of years were immunocompromised. This means their immune systems were weakened due to a condition or treatment.

Since the overall percentage of adults with rotavirus dropped, that means the total number of immunocompromised adults who had rotavirus also dropped.

The authors note that the 50 percent decline in rotavirus among adults is consistent with the declines seen in children after the vaccine's introduction.

"This decline began in 2008 and coincides with similar declines in children that were observed after widespread pediatric rotavirus vaccination," the authors wrote. "This observation strongly suggests that pediatric rotavirus vaccination protects adults from rotavirus."

The researchers wrote that widespread vaccination against rotavirus will therefore help both adults and children.

"Implementation of pediatric rotavirus vaccination should be encouraged for its substantial impact on the prevalence of rotavirus in unvaccinated adults as well as in children," the researchers wrote.

The study was published January 24 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. The research was funded by Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago as well as grants from Meridian Biosciences and the Investigator-Initiated Studies Program of Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.

Four of the studies authors report receiving funding, speakers' fees or honoraria from Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and/or Medscape. No other disclosures were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 23, 2013
Last Updated:
January 24, 2013