An oral cholera vaccine proved to be 86 percent effective in controlling the disease during a recent outbreak in Guinea. The results of a study, published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, are the first showing the vaccine provides almost immediate protection.
Researchers with Epicentre, the research arm of the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders in Paris, and the Guinean Ministry of Health say their findings support using the vaccine to contain future cholera outbreaks.
In Guinea, public health authorities administered some 316,000 doses of the vaccine, called Sanchol, in two rounds in the coastal districts of Boffa and Forecariah over a six week period in 2012. The coverage rate in both communities was over 75 percent.
The vaccine dramatically reduced disease transmission. Most of the confirmed cases of cholera were from a local outbreak in a small community with low immunization rates.
In 2010, the World Health Organization added oral cholera vaccine to its recommendations for prevention and control of the disease. An emergency stockpile was created in 2013.
Before the vaccination campaign in Guinea, there was little evidence showing the effectiveness a cholera vaccine during an outbreak. But experts hope the experience in the West African nation shows the feasibility of using the vaccine during an actual emergency.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated three to five million million people worldwide become infected each year, with 100,000 deaths reported.
The illness is caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae, which is transmitted mostly through water that's contaminated with the human waste of infected individuals.