November 10, 1997
Media Contact: Marc Kusinitz
Phone: (410)955-8665

Johns Hopkins scientists are seeking infants 2 to 4 months old to test an oral vaccine for a virus that sends up to 100,000 infants to the hospital and kills about 200 each year in the United States.

Rotavirus strikes almost all children, according to David Sack, M.D., professor of international health and director of the vaccine program at Hopkins. "The virus is spread by the fecal-oral route and follows the same seasonal pattern as influenza," he says. Severe cases cause dehydration from diarrhea and require replenishing water and salts.

Because worldwide the virus causes about 800,000 deaths, developing an effective rotavirus vaccine is one of the highest priorities of the World Health Organization, Sack says.

The Hopkins study is under way at several locations around Maryland, including St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, and private practices in Easton, Cambridge and Ellicott City. Enrollment will continue until Thanksgiving. "The rotavirus season in Baltimore runs from January to April, so we want to vaccinate infants before the season starts," Sack says.

Doctors give the vaccine by squirting a solution into the infant's mouth. Tests of an older vaccine recently tested in Venezuela, and reported in the Oct. 23 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, showed it provided a high level of protection against the disease. "Our preliminary findings suggest that this new vaccine may be more effective than the one used in Venezuela," says Sack.

If you would like to talk with Sack or arrange an interview at one of the clinical trial sites, please call me at 410-955-8665 or e-mail me at:

-- JHMI --
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