Rotavirus vaccination of infants also protects unvaccinated older children and adults

Vaccinating infants against rotavirus also prevents serious disease in unvaccinated older children and adults, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This helps reduce rotavirus-related hospital costs in these older groups. The results of the study are published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases and are now available online.

Rotavirus is a major cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children. Before the vaccine, rotavirus was responsible for 58,000 to 70,000 pediatric hospitalizations each year. Routine rotavirus vaccination of U.S. infants started in 2006 and has been very successful at reducing hospitalizations from severe infections in children under 5.

Study author Ben Lopman, PhD, and colleagues assessed whether the benefits of the rotavirus also extended to children older than 5 years, adults, and the elderly who are not eligible for the vaccine. The researchers examined nationally-representative data from 2000 to 2008 to determine if for rotavirus and severe diarrhea declined among unvaccinated children and adults.

"Rotavirus-related hospital admissions decreased in all —most significantly in people 5 to 24 years old who were not eligible for the rotavirus vaccine. The largest reduction was in March, the peak month for rotavirus infection," noted Dr. Lopman. Also in March, there were significant reductions in rotavirus admissions in people 25 years and older and admissions for severe diarrhea in the elderly. "We speculate that vaccinating infants curtailed rotavirus transmission in the community, resulting in fewer infections across the entire population," said Dr. Lopman. About 10,000 hospitalizations of children 5 and older were averted in 2008, amounting to about $40 million in health care savings.

"Our study showed that the burden of rotavirus—severe enough to require hospitalization—in older children and adults is larger than we were previously aware," said Dr. Lopman. "And by vaccinating infants, we can indirectly prevent this burden of disease, thereby amplifying public health and economic benefits of infant vaccination."

In an accompanying editorial, Roger I. Glass, MD, PhD, director of the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health, speculated that a similar approach could "make a big difference in our ability to prevent deaths and severe disease from rotavirus in the developing world." Each year, 600,000 children die as a result of rotavirus infection in low-income countries, including those where rotavirus occurs year-round. Further research is needed in these settings, Dr. Glass concluded, noting the benefits and challenges of introducing such a program in lower-income countries.

Fast Facts:

1. Rotavirus vaccination indirectly averted approximately 10,000 hospitalizations in 2008 in unvaccinated children aged 5 years and older in the United States, saving a total of $40 million in health care costs.

2. This study highlights the previously unrecognized burden of rotavirus infection severe enough to require hospitalization in children aged 5 years and older and adults.

3. Infants and young children play a critical role in spreading to unvaccinated older children and .

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rotavirus can spread beyond the intestine

Apr 17, 2007

A new study in PLoS Medicine has shown that children who have rotavirus, a very common cause of diarrhea in children, and who have antigens (protein fragments from the surface of the virus) in their blood, also have infect ...

Recommended for you

US orders farms to report pig virus infections

Apr 18, 2014

The U.S. government is starting a new program to help monitor and possibly control the spread of a virus that has killed millions of pigs since showing up in the country last year.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi

Apr 18, 2014

A foreigner has died after she contracted MERS in the Saudi capital, the health ministry said on announced Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 73.

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

Apr 18, 2014

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

New clues on tissue scarring in scleroderma

Apr 18, 2014

A discovery by Northwestern Medicine scientists could lead to potential new treatments for breaking the cycle of tissue scarring in people with scleroderma.

User comments