Newer vaccine seen as better for polio hot spots

By Gene Emery

BOSTON (Reuters) - A newer vaccine that targets the most common form of the polio virus works up to four times better than the conventional vaccine that tries to protect against all three types of the crippling disease, researchers said on Wednesday.

The monovalent vaccine may help speed the fight to eradicate polio, U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials Ellie Ehrenfeld and Konstantin Chumakov wrote in a commentary in The New England Journal of Medicine, where two studies on the 3-year-old vaccine appear.

“One can get much more immunity from the monovalent vaccine than one could with the trivalent doses,” Dr. Roland Sutter of the World Health Organization in Geneva, who worked on one of the studies in Egypt, said in a telephone interview.

Both versions of the vaccine — the newer monovalent and the older trivalent vaccine - are made by French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis.

Polio spreads through fecal-oral contact and thrives in areas with poor sanitation.

Although eradicated from most of the globe, polio can still be found in northern Nigeria, northern India and along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In 2007, there were 1,310 cases reported worldwide, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the study conducted in Egypt, the vaccines were given at birth to 421 children. The single-target monovalent version produced protection in 55.4 percent of newborns, compared to 32.1 percent among those who got the older “trivalent” version targeting three strains of the polio virus.

Four doses are recommended, which ultimately makes them even more effective.  Continued…

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