A vaccine that protect babies from a potentially lethal stomach bug also slashes their risk of developing diabetes by a third.
New research shows that getting fully vaccinated against rotavirus in the first months of life is associated with a much lower risk of developing Type 1 diabetes later on.
As a group, children who received all recommended doses of rotavirus vaccine had a 33 percent lower risk than unvaccinated children of getting diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – a lifelong disease with no known prevention or cure.
The University of Michigan team’s study, based on insurance data, suggests that simply enforcing already existing shot recommendations could considerably reduce the burden of the chronic disease.
Getting the rotavirus vaccine between their second and fourth months of life may reduce infants’ risks of developing type 1 diabetes by one third, a new study suggests (file)
They said that their findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, provides ‘strong post-market evidence’ that the vaccine works.
Children vaccinated against rotavirus had a 94 percent lower rate of hospitalization for rotavirus infection, and a 31 percent lower rate of hospitalization for any reason, in the first two months after the jab.
Rotavirus hits babies and toddlers hardest; it can cause diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to dehydration or loss of fluids.
In Britain, an oral vaccine against rotavirus infection is given as two doses for babies aged eight and 12 weeks, alongside their other routine childhood vaccinations.
The vaccine is given as a liquid straight into the baby’s mouth for them to swallow.
Study lead author Dr Mary Rogers, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan, said: ‘This is an uncommon condition, so it takes large amounts of data to see any trends across a population.
‘It will take more time and analyses to confirm these findings. But we do see a decline in Type 1 diabetes in young children after the rotavirus vaccine was introduced.’
She said the new results echo the findings of a study of Australian children published earlier this year, which found a 14 per cent reduced risk of Type 1 diabetes after the rotavirus vaccine was introduced there.
That study, and the new one, suggest that a childhood vaccine may lead to a lower risk of a later chronic condition.
It also fits with laboratory studies showing that rotavirus attacks the same kind of pancreas cells that are affected in people with Type 1 diabetes.
The death of insulin-producing cells, called beta cells, means people with Type 1 diabetes depend on injections of insulin, and multiple daily checks of their blood sugar, for life.
If the condition is not managed well, people with Type 1 diabetes may develop problems with their kidneys, heart, eyes, nerves and blood vessels.
The Michigan team used anonymous insurance data from 1.5 million American children born before and after the modern rotavirus vaccine was introduced in 2006.
Children partially vaccinated – that is, started the vaccine series but never finished it – did not have a lower risk of Type 1 diabetes.
More than 540,000 of the children in the study and born after 2006 received the complete series of rotavirus shots; nearly 141,000 received at least one dose, and more than 246,000 did not.
Another comparison group, born in the five years before the vaccine was available, included nearly 547,000 children.
Dr Rogers and her colleagues said that eight fewer cases of Type 1 diabetes would be expected to occur for every 100,000 children each year with full vaccination.
She said that Type 1 diabetes only affects a few children out of every 100,000, so having such a large pool of data can help spot trends.
Dr Rogers added: ‘Five years from now, we will know much more.
‘The first groups of children to receive the rotavirus vaccine in the United States are now in grade school, when Type 1 diabetes is most often detected.
‘Hopefully, in years to come, we’ll have fewer new cases – but based on our study findings, that depends upon parents bringing in their children to get vaccinated.’