Dead Ends to Somewhere - The Story of a Vaccine to Save 500,000 Children Worldwide and the Reluctant Student Who Invented It is an engaging story about the life and times of Dr. Richard Ward, a virologist who progressed from an ordinary grammar school experience to be a Virology Section Chief at the EPA in Cincinnati, Ohio with subsequent research positions in Sandia and other research projects.
Times were hard in the early years. Richard's mother had practical survival skills like soap production from pig fat and canning plant food. Even the weather was severe. In Montana, there are 8 months of winter. A stay at Montana State College cemented a budding career in biochemistry. The next stop was a graduate program at the University of California at Berkeley. After many tribulations, Richard received an A- in biochemistry.
An important initial research challenge was extracting Cesium-137 from nuclear waste for treatment aimed at inactivating human viruses in sludge. Enteric viruses replicate in the intestine and are released in feces to enter sewage. Polioviruses die during sludge digestion in the absence of oxygen due to ammonia generated in the digestive tract. The presence of rotavirus in sludge had major significance if the waste product was used as fertilizer. Armed with this knowledge, Dr. Richard Ward learned more about irradiating sludge at Sandia. The novelty was the use of radiation and heat during sludge treatment but there were complications in the testing.
After much work, a Rotarix trial was conducted in 6 countries in Europe. Nearly 4000 infants were administered two doses of Rotarix. Two of the critical outcomes of this trial were that the vaccine provided 96% protection against severe rotavirus disease and 75% protection against hospital admissions due to gastroenteritis of any cause. Contraindications should be disclosed for all drugs, as well as inorganic additives.
By 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that the vaccine be used widely throughout Latin America and Europe. Ultimately, the FDA allowed use of the vaccine in the United States.
WHO recommends that rotavirus vaccine for infants should be included in all national immunization programmes. In countries where diarrheal deaths account for 10% of mortality among children aged under 5 years, the introduction of the vaccine is strongly recommended. WHO recommends that the first dose of either RotaTeq or Rotarix be administered at age 6-15 weeks. The maximum age for administering the last dose of either vaccine should be 32 weeks. 1)