Rotavirus vaccination in children impacts on adults

Vaccinating children against rotavirus should be encouraged, say researchers, following findings that the prevalence of the disease has recently halved among unvaccinated adults in the USA.

The prevalence of rotavirus in US adults during the peak rotavirus season has declined by almost 50% during 2008-2010 compared with 2006-2007, the period immediately before the reintroduction of pediatric rotavirus vaccination in 2008.

This decline coincides with similar declines that have been observed in children since 2008, say Evan Anderson (Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA) and colleagues.

"This observation strongly suggests that pediatric rotavirus vaccination protects adults from rotavirus," says the team.

Anderson and team found that the prevalence of rotavirus among bacterial stool cultures (BSCs) from 3530 adults who submitted samples from February through May (peak rotavirus season) between 2006 and 2007 was 4.35%. This compared with a prevalence of 2.24% in BSC samples submitted by adults during the peak season between 2008 and 2010, a significant 48.40% decline.

The prevalence of rotavirus in BSCs rose from 2.15% in 2008 to 2.67% in 2009, and then fell to its lowest in 2010, at 1.88%.

Furthermore, "because we observed declines in adult rotavirus disease that began in 2008 when only an estimated 32% of US children <5 years of age had received ≥1 dose of rotavirus vaccine, the ultimate decline in the prevalence due to childhood vaccination may be even greater," remarks the team.

The researchers say that their findings extend evidence for the important indirect protection afforded by pediatric rotavirus vaccination, which occurs through decreased pathogen circulation in the community.

"Implementation of pediatric rotavirus vaccination should be encouraged for its substantial impact on the prevalence of rotavirus in unvaccinated adults as well as in children," concludes the team.

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