Improving rotavirus vaccinations to reduce infant deaths

Rotavirus vaccines (RV) taken by mouth have the potential to prevent severe diarrhoea and greatly reduce infant deaths, but they work less well in countries where they are needed most. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia vaccine efficacy is 43-66%.

This collaborative project has built a partnership with the College of Medicine at the University of Malawi and established birth cohorts in three countries – Malawi and India where RV efficacy is poor in infant populations, and the UK where vaccine efficacy is high. Infants are followed from birth up to 16 weeks of age. Stool, blood and breast milk samples are collected to investigate maternal antibody transfer, and infant stool samples are used to investigate the role of the gut bacteria (the microbiota), early exposure to natural rotavirus infections, and co-administration of other oral vaccines (poliovirus: OPV) on the ability to develop immune protection after RV vaccination.

The results of this research have the potential to influence vaccine implementation policy, and lead to tailored approaches to immunisation to improve the health of different populations and vulnerable people. To address the need for qualified people to take this work forward, the team is developing the capacity of clinician scientists in Malawi and India in vaccinology, microbiome studies and bio-informatics through workshops and mentoring programmes.

Understanding key factors that impair rotavirus vaccine performance among the most vulnerable children will allow us to improve them and reduce health inequities across populations.

Professor Miren Iturriza-Gómara

This project was shortlisted for Newton Prize 2017

Impact of Maternally Derived Antibodies and Infant Microbiota on the Immunogenicity of Rotavirus Vaccines in African, Indian and European Infants

Project leads: Professor Miren Iturriza-Gómara, Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool, UK and Professor Gagandeep Kang, Wellcome Trust Research Laboratory at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India

Project partners: Medical Research Council and the Department for Biotechnology, India

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