A clinical trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has found that a new typhoid vaccine works “fantastically” well at preventing a strain of the infection that is almost untreatable.
The trial showed that the cases of typhoid decreased by more than 80 percent, prompting researchers to say that the new vaccine was a game-changer and would be able to reduce the “terrible toll wrought by typhoid.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than nine million children are being immunized in Pakistan, where the bacterial infection has now been extremely resistant to antibacterial drugs.
Typhoid is caused by a pathogenic bacterium Salmonella Typhi, which is highly contagious and can spread through contaminated water or food. It is more prevalent in countries with poor sanitation and hygiene.
The signs and symptoms of typhoid include prolonged fever, headache, nausea, constipation, and loss of appetite. Antibiotics are effective in subsiding the infection but one in 100 people may land up into complications, such as GI bleeding.
The clinical trial was conducted on more than 20,000 children between the ages of nine months and 16 years in Nepal. The researchers gave the new vaccine to half of the children and found that their cases of typhoid decreased by 81 percent in the first year of the trial.
Prof. Andrew Pollard from the University of Oxford, who was part of the trials, told BBC News, “It works fantastically well in preventing this disease affecting some of the world’s most vulnerable children.”
“The burden of typhoid is so huge; we’re seeing families taking children into hospital to be treated and being plunged into poverty paying for the costs of investigation and treatment with antibiotics,” he added. “The arrival of this vaccine to control the disease is a pretty exciting moment.”
Director of Typhoid Vaccine Acceleration Consortium Dr. Kathleen Neuzil said, “The vaccine could reduce disease and save lives in populations that lack clean water and improved sanitation.”
The WHO has warned that typhoid has acquired a great antibiotic resistance and there will be no use current treatments in the future.
Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, told BBC News, “Right now in Pakistan, a strain of typhoid has developed resistance to all but one of the antibiotics we use to treat the disease, threatening to take us back to the days when typhoid killed as many as one-fifth of the people that contracted it.”
“This vaccine is a game-changer in the battle against typhoid; it also couldn’t have arrived at a better time,” added Dr. Berkley.
He continued, “This vaccine should play a key role in bringing this dangerous outbreak under control and, once introduced into more countries’ routine immunization programs, reducing the terrible toll wrought by typhoid worldwide.” Prof. Pollard said, “It is really exciting to have a new intervention, in a very rapid space of time that can not only prevent the disease but help in the fight against anti-microbial resistance.”