New Rotavirus Vaccine Powder May Save Thousands of Impoverished Babies

The rotavirus vaccine is one of the major vaccinations recommended for children around the globe. In the U.S. it is administered two or three times before babies reach 8 months of age. This crucial vaccine protects babies against the nasty rotavirus that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. In some parts of the world, rotavirus is a leading killer of children.

But hope is on the way for communities who have not been able to get a sustainable version of the rotavirus vaccine. That’s because a rotavirus vaccine powder was developed that allows the drug to sit at room temperature for years and extreme heat for months. For babies in certain parts of Africa and Asia where dying of rotavirus is most common, this is life saving.

New Rotavirus Vaccine Powder May Save Thousands of Impoverished BabiesThe new rotavirus vaccine powder, called BRV-PV, was engineered using the same technology as space food. The traditional virus was freeze-dried to remove all of the water, leaving only powder that does not need to be refrigerated. To administer the vaccine, it is simply dissolved in a salt solution and dropped on a baby’s tongue.

Prior to this ingenious breakthrough, many babies in areas of sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia were not able to receive the rotavirus vaccine because it could not be transported to very poor rural areas under refrigeration. If approved by the World Health Organization, clinicians and aide workers would be able to transport the rotavirus in bulk quantities in regular vehicles to the babies who need it, potentially saving the lives of 200,000 babies who die of rotavirus per year in these regions.

Sources: NPR, Mayo Clinic and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention