By Caty Weaver

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

Researchers in Peru have successfully used a new drug to treat children with diarrhea. The drug is called racecadotril [RAH-she-kuh-DO-tril]. It reportedly shortened the length of time children were sick and decreased the severity of the diarrhea.

Diarrhea is a common sickness. It affects twenty-five percent of the world's population each year. The sickness is not a major concern in industrial nations. But, it kills many people in developing countries.

The most common victims are children. Dennis Lang is a diarrhea expert for the National Institutes of Health near Washington. He says the sickness kills millions of children in countries like Bangladesh, India and Indonesia. He says it is also a major killer in areas of Africa and South American continents.

A number of diseases can cause diarrhea. They include cholera, rotavirus, shigella and typhoid fever. Diarrhea can also result from drinking impure water or eating unclean food. The major danger of diarrhea is that it severely reduces the amount of water, vitamins and minerals in the body. The main treatment of diarrhea is called oral rehydration therapy. Medical workers try to re-fill the body with water and the important nutrients it contains.

However, Eduardo Salazar-Lindo says oral rehydration therapy will work better if patients are given racecadotril at the same time. Doctor Salazar-Lindo is a children's doctor at a hospital in Lima. He led the research team that studied racecadotril.

Earlier studies in France had found the drug to be safe and effective for adults and children. But, the Peruvian team wanted to find out how the drug would affect children in developing nations. They usually have more severe cases of the sickness.

Doctor Salazar-Lindo reports that the children given racecadotril were sick for a shorter period of time. The diarrhea ended after a day compared to the two to three days for the children with diarrhea who did not receive the drug. Those given racecadotril also produced much less waste. More water and nutrients remained in their bodies as a result.

One-hundred-thirty-five young boys took part in the study in Peru. They were between three months and three years in age. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English