Rotavirus Vaccine and effects of Gut Microbes

Letter to the Editor

Every year thousands of children die of Rotavirus in Pakistan. It is estimated that 1 in every 3 child in Pakistan develops severe gastrointestinal infection due to Rotavirus. It is, therefore, a good decision of EPI (Expanded program on immunization) of Pakistan to apply for the introduction of Rotavirus vaccine to be included in the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization group during this month. Once approved the vaccine will be available to all infants in Pakistan.

The latest research conducted by Vanessa Harris of University of Amsterdam found that unlike European children, only 15% of Pakistani infants mounted the expected immune response to oral Rotavirus vaccine. This was because the vaccine interacts with the bacteria and microbes of the intestinal tract. And on testing, they also found that Pakistani children harbored a higher diversity of microbes, compared to Dutch kids, some of which interacted with the Rotavirus oral vaccine.

Similarly, a research published in 2014, showed that varying compositions of gut bacteria in Bangladeshi infants directly affected the reactions to the tetanus, tuberculosis, and oral polio vaccines.

Considering these latest research, the high diversity of gut bacteria found in Pakistani children will determine the effectiveness of oral vaccines, including Rotavirus. Therefore, the EPI should also include research and monitoring of gut bacteria of infants and the effectiveness of the vaccine immunization. The Universities of Pakistan can also collaborate with the International universities in collecting data of gut microbes, that can be used for finding effective oral vaccine combinations.

Since currently such data for Pakistan is not available, the EPI can therefore also entice Universities to work on such research, while also collecting all the data at a central location with easy access to researchers. This way they will make Rotavirus vaccine effective for Pakistani children, and helping save thousands of lives each year.

Engr. Shahryar Khan Baseer


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