The child killers

The child killers

 

Despite the successes of the last decades, millions of children in developing countries still have no access to vaccines which could be developed in a relatively brief period of time. Enteric infections are good examples of this. For example, salmonellosis (that is, illnesses caused by bacteria of the salmonella family, such as typhoid fever) and dysenteries caused by bacteria from the Shighella family, among others, have barely been touched by international health authorities and even less so by companies. Salmonella typhi alone causes more than 21 million serious cases of typhoid fevers every year. These infectious diseases are the most neglected among the neglected illnesses and due to their low priority in developed countries nearly nothing is spent in the development of vaccines to combat them: only 7% of the funds dedicated to neglected illnesses. Life-threatening gastroenteritis (including salmonellosis) is nearly absent in developed countries, where thanks to available medicines it causes a mild indisposition which generally remits within a week. Outside these countries, however, it kills between 1.3 and 1.5 million children under 5 years of age every year, more than AIDS, malaria and measles all put together.

Although gastroenteritis is the first cause of death due to infections under five years of age, there are no vaccines for these illnesses for pediatric patients where the morbidity and mortality is highest. The need to protect this vulnerable age group is therefore dramatic.

Important facts about enteric illnesses and dysentery

  • first cause of death for children under 5 years of age,
  • these illnesses could be prevented and treated,
  • kill a million and half children every year,
  • two billion cases of gastroenteritis and dysentery in the world every year,
  • victims primarily children two years old or younger,
  • main cause of malnutrition under five years of age,
  • no vaccines effective for children against the bacteria of these illnesses.

 

% of deaths of children under age five, by MDG region, 2010 (‘000). Source: Child Mortality Report WHO

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Estimated number of deaths by infectious diseases in children age 1 to 59 months – 2008

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Source: Robert E. Black et al.for the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group of WHO and UNICEF Lancet online May 12, 2010