China, a nation gripped with numerous viruses and infections, has ironically developed what could be the world's first ever working vaccine that could prevent the potentially deadly hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in children.
The virus, called enterovirus 71, or EV71, gives off rashes and painful blisters. In some cases however it can lead to brain infections and spinal cord membranes which can be fatal in very young children. Severe exposure to the EV71 sometimes also lead to potentially fatal meningitis and encephalitis.
The researchers found that the vaccine that was made from a deactivated EV71 proved to be 90 per cent effective against the virus, in a trial involving 10,000 children, aged between six and 35 months who lived in four different places around China. Half were given two doses of the vaccine while the other half were given a placebo.
"During active surveillance, vaccine efficacy was 90 per cent against EV71-associated hand, foot and mouth disease and 80.4 per cent against EV71-associated disease," the researchers said in their paper.
It likewise "demonstrated 100 per cent efficacy against EV71-associated hospitalisation, suggesting that it could have a significant impact on public health by preventing severe outcomes of EV71 infection," the authors added.
However, the experimental shot does not protect against hand, foot and mouth disease given ofef by the coxsackievirus A16. Between EV71 and coxsackievirus, the latter is the most common cause of infection, according to the World Health Organization.
"This multicenter randomized controlled trial done in China is a notable advance in protection against EV71," pediatricians Nigel Crawford and Steve Graham from Melbourne, Australia's Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne, said in a commentary. "The major effect of this vaccine will be to reduce hospital admissions."