Vaccine Development Global Program

Rotavirus, ETEC, Shigella

New tools in the fight against deadly diarrhea

Indian girl looking at camera.

Photo: PATH/Satvir Malhotra.

When diarrhea strikes a child in the developed world, there’s a safety net in place with doctors and hospitals ready to treat dehydration or prescribe antibiotics for the most common causes of diarrheal disease.

In poor countries, the picture is entirely different. Treatment can be hard to access, and diarrhea can be deadly. Poor sanitation, insufficient water treatment systems, and lack of access to appropriate medical care and vaccines translate into nearly 600,000 deaths among children less than five years old and millions more hospitalizations from severe, dehydrating diarrhea every year.

Vaccines to prevent diarrheal diseases are an essential and lifesaving part of diarrhea control strategies, and may even reduce malnutrition and developmental delays associated with severe diarrhea in children. That’s why PATH is working on new vaccines against the leading causes of this serious disease—rotavirus, enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), and Shigella.

Rotavirus is the most deadly pathogen that causes diarrheal disease and accounts for approximately one-third of all child deaths from diarrhea. Although rotavirus vaccines are currently available and recommended for global use by the World Health Organization, they are not yet widely available in or affordable for low-resource countries, where more than 90 percent of rotavirus-related deaths occur. So, PATH is working on two fronts—increasing access to and effectiveness of existing rotavirus vaccines worldwide and speeding the development of safe, effective, and more affordable new rotavirus vaccines.

The leading bacterial causes of diarrhea are ETEC and Shigella. Vaccines against these pathogens could save almost one-third of the kids dying from diarrheal disease each year and prevent many more cases of severe diarrhea. Currently, there are no licensed vaccines against either pathogen. To accelerate the development of safe, effective, and affordable vaccines against ETEC and Shigella for children, PATH is working with private- and public-sector partners to pursue a range of promising vaccine approaches and related research.

Beyond the science, we are also working on an advocacy effort to prioritize diarrheal disease within the broader public health arena. Our comprehensive strategy to fight diarrhea includes support for new and existing vaccines, improved oral rehydration solution, breastfeeding, zinc treatments, and safe drinking water. Winning the fight against childhood diarrhea requires a commitment to an integrated package of treatment and prevention options.

Worldwide, children’s health is seriously affected by diarrheal disease every day. By advancing vaccines that address the leading causes of diarrhea, PATH is improving children’s odds of defeating this deadly disease.

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