Cholera Vaccine Helps Prevent Serious Illness
Medical news


An vaccine in a pill protects children and adults against severe cholera, a new study shows.

Cholera is an infectious disease spread through contaminated water and food. It is typically found in hot, tropical climates, the researchers explained.

The results of the first real-life trial of the vaccine support its use in routine mass vaccination programs to help control cholera in more than 50 countries.

In countries where the infection is common, more than 1 billion people are at risk of contracting the infectious disease, the researchers noted.

Each year, there are about 2.8 million cholera cases and 91,000 deaths in regions where the disease is common, they added.

The study included nearly 270,000 people living in a slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the researchers said. All were over the age of 1. They were at high risk of cholera due to overcrowding and poor sanitation.

The study volunteers were randomly selected to receive either the oral cholera vaccine Shanchol, the vaccine along with improved hand-washing and clean drinking water, or no intervention.

The vaccine was given in two doses 14 days apart. Sixty-five percent of the vaccine-only group and 66 percent of the vaccine/hand washing/clean drinking water group received two complete doses.

Vaccination with two doses reduced the incidence of severely dehydrating cholera by 37 percent after two years in the vaccine-only group, the study found. In the vaccine/hand washing/clean drinking water group, the rate of severely dehydrating cholera dropped by 45 percent.

Further analysis showed that vaccination reduced the risk of cholera by 53 percent over two years, according to the study.

The results were published online July 8 in The Lancet.

"Our findings show that a routine oral cholera vaccination program in cholera-endemic countries could substantially reduce the burden of disease and greatly contribute to cholera control efforts. The vaccine is cheap, two doses cost U.S. $3.70, around a third of the price of the other licensed vaccine Dukoral," study author Dr. Firdausi Qadri, of the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research Bangladesh, said in a journal news release.

No serious side effects were reported. The most common problems associated with the vaccine were vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and acute watery diarrhea.

"Ultimately, the key to controlling cholera is clean water and adequate sanitation, which half the developing world [around 2.5 billion people] lack, but this remains a rather difficult reality for the world's poorest nations as well as those affected by climate change, war and natural disasters," Qadri said.

-- Robert Preidt