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New Global Study Pinpoints Main Causes of Childhood Diarrheal Diseases, Suggests Effective Solutions
Date:5/13/2013

Baltimore. MD (PRWEB) May 13, 2013

A new international study published today in The Lancet provides the clearest picture yet of the impact and most common causes of diarrheal diseases, the second leading killer of young children globally, after pneumonia. The Global Enteric Multicenter Study (GEMS) is the largest study ever conducted on diarrheal diseases in developing countries, enrolling more than 20,000 children from seven sites across Asia and Africa.

GEMS, coordinated by the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Vaccine Development, confirmed rotavirus – for which a vaccine already exists – as the leading cause of diarrheal diseases among infants and identified other top causes for which additional research is urgently needed. GEMS found that approximately one in five children under the age of two suffer from moderate-to-severe diarrhea (MSD) each year, which increased children’s risk of death 8.5-fold and led to stunted growth over a two-month follow-up period.

“Until now, comprehensive data on the burden of diarrheal diseases in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa has been limited,” said Dr. Myron M. Levine, GEMS Principal Investigator and Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “By filling critical gaps in knowledge, we hope GEMS will help countries across these two highest-burden regions focus their efforts to improve child health.”

Despite many causes, GEMS found that targeting just four pathogens could prevent the majority of MSD cases. Expanding access to vaccines for rotavirus, the leading cause of MSD among infants at every site, could save hundreds of thousands of lives. Likewise, GEMS data suggests that accelerating research on vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for the three other leading pathogens – Shigella, Cryptosporidium and ST-ETEC, a type of E. coli – could have a similar impact. Prior to GEMS, Cryptosporidium was not considered a major cause of diar
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