Rotaviruses are the most common cause of severe diarrhoeal disease in infants and young children worldwide; in 2004, rotavirus infections were estimated to cause approximately 527 000 (475 000-580 000) deaths, predominantly in developing countries. Although the viral strains show considerable diversity, 5 serotypes are responsible for the majority of human rotavirus disease. Primarily transmitted by the faecal-oral route, rotaviruses affect the vast majority of children worldwide before the age of 3 years, and in most developing countries before the first birthday.
Two new live, oral, attenuated rotavirus vaccines were licensed in 2006. Both vaccines have demonstrated very good safety and efficacy profiles in large clinical trials in western industralized countries and in Latin America. Careful surveillance has not revealed any increased risk of intussusception in the vaccinated groups with either vaccines. The new rotavirus vaccines are now introduced for routine use in a number of industrialized and developing countries.