WELLINGTON, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand and Australian scientists are close to releasing a new vaccine against rotavirus, which, they say, could save the lives of more than 500,000 children under the age of five worldwide each year, most of them in developing countries.
Clinical trials involving 95 babies in Dunedin, New Zealand, found the vaccine provided a strong immune response in more than 90 percent of infants who received a three-dose course starting within days of birth, said a statement from New Zealand's University of Otago on Thursday.
Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea among infants and young children and results in the deaths of more than half a million children under five years of age worldwide each year.
Researchers from Otago and Australia's University of Melbourne said the results provided confidence that the vaccine would be very effective in preventing severe rotavirus gastroenteritis in very young babies.
"The advantage of this vaccine over the currently available vaccines is the birth dose, which is the earliest opportunity to provide protection to babies from severe rotavirus gastroenteritis. This world-first approach has enormous potential to reduce disease and dying in the most vulnerable children around the world," University of Melbourne Professor Julie Bines said in the statement.
The "RV3" rotavirus vaccine has been developed from a unique strain of rotavirus that was found naturally in healthy asymptomatic newborn babies, who were then protected from severe rotavirus diarrhea in the first two years of life.
University of Otago researcher Dr Pam Jackson said in the statement that research and development of the RV3 vaccine were being led and conducted by academic institutions, rather than the pharmaceutical industry, to make it affordable for developing countries, where it is needed most.
Clinical trials were also underway in Indonesia and it was hoped the vaccine would be available for widespread use in 2016.