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 Monday, 13 January, 2003, 00:20 GMT
Diarrhoea vaccine 'within 10 years'
Diarrhoea is a major killer in some developing countries
An effective vaccine for diarrhoea could be available within 10 years, according to scientists at the forefront of research in Bangladesh.

An estimated 1.5 million people throughout the world die of diarrhoea each year.

Millions more are hospitalised and require urgent medical care to stop them suffering chronic dehydration and dying.

We would hope to have a vaccine in about 10 years' time

Ferdausi Qadri
Researchers at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Dhaka are currently testing a number of vaccines.

The centre includes a hospital and treats in the region of 140,000 people with diarrhoea each year.

Saving lives

Recent studies have looked at possible vaccines for cholera and rotavirus - the leading cause of childhood diarrhoea which kills up to 600,000 children each year.

Scientists at the ICDDR believe a vaccine to protect against diarrhoea could cut childhood deaths in developing countries by as much as 70%.

"We have studies being carried out on a rotavirus vaccine, a cholera vaccine and others," said Ferdausi Qadri, a senior scientist at the centre.

"We are hopeful we can continue to decrease morbidity and we would hope to have a vaccine in about 10 years' time, particularly for children. That is where we need the protection.

"If you can cut down the number of cases of cholera and diarrhoea you could take out between 60% and 70% of morbidity or incidence of death in these children."

That view is shared by Rob Breiman, head of the centre's programme on infectious diseases.

'Huge lifesaver'

"Rotavirus is responsible for between 35% and 40% of hospitalisations with children with diarrhoea.

"That's a huge amount and if you consider a lot of these kids if they don't make it to hospital would go on to die usually from dehydration, a vaccine to prevent that would by itself by a huge lifesaver."

Dr Breiman is one of many scientists who have come from overseas to work at the centre.

Bangladesh is seen as a prime location for the study of new or emerging diseases.

"Bangladesh, probably because it is so overcrowded, is one of the places where you would expect to find new diseases emerging," explained Rob Breiman, who originally worked with the US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

"And this centre is probably the only place in the world where you can do state-of-the-art research right where the action is."

International impact

Research carried out at the centre has helped doctors throughout Bangladesh and much further a field to cut deaths from diarrhoea.

"Our findings are published in internationally reputed peer-reviewed journals and are disseminated across the world," said Professor Barkhat E-Khuda, associate director of the centre.

"Lessons can be learnt from the research carried out at the centre. This can have implications and can benefit the lives of people not just in Bangladesh but globally."

This story is featured in the radio programme Health Matters on the BBC World Service.

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