Keeping ahead of a child killer: stopping gastro from birth

A new rotavirus vaccine should soon be available thanks to a collaboration between PT Bio Farma and researchers in Melbourne and Yogyakarta. The new ‘RV3’ vaccine is aimed at protecting babies from birth, improving protection and simplifying delivery.

The current vaccine, available in Australia and only on the private market in Indonesia, can only be administered from six weeks of age.

Diarrhoea is the leading cause of death in children under five years of age in Indonesia, and rotavirus has been found to be the most common cause of diarrhoea in these children admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis.

But the cause was unknown until Ruth Bishop and her colleagues, working with babies at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital and The University of Melbourne, found the rotavirus. The discovery triggered a global effort to fight the disease. Today GAVI, the global vaccine alliance, are getting rotavirus vaccines to over fifty million children in the poorest countries.

The vaccine is saving millions of lives, but it’s hoped that the new version, RV3, will take protection a step further. Developed through a collaboration between Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), Bio Farma, and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI), RV3 has been through clinical trials in New Zealand and Australia.

“The rotavirus vaccine RV3 trial in Indonesia is one of outstanding and long collaboration between UGM and the Rotavirus Group at MCRI/Royal Children’s Hospital and The University of Melbourne which has been established for almost 40 years, involving academic exchange, research and training,” says Dr Jarir At Thobari, of Universitas Gadjah Mada.

“We hope the success story will continue
in future.”

An Indonesian trial started in 2013 with two regional hospitals, 23 primary healthcare clinics, and more than 35 doctors and 300 midwives. Bio Farma hopes to licence the vaccine in Indonesia in 2019.