Around the world each year, dehydration from diarrhea caused by infectious diseases kills more than 500,000 children under age five. Millions more would die if it weren’t for a simple mixture of sugar, salt and water in proper proportions — commonly called oral rehydration solution — that enables bodies to retain water more easily.
Developed in the 1960s by researchers working in East Pakistan, Bangladesh and India — including Nathaniel Pierce and Brad Sack of what is now the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health — the solution keeps children from dying of dehydration. At the time, the only treatment for dehydration was IV fluids, something not available to most of the world’s poorest children.
Mathuram Santosham, the founding director of the Bloomberg School’s Center for American Indian Health, conducted a key field study that demonstrated the effectiveness of oral rehydration treatment to a skeptical medical community. Now, oral rehydration solution is credited with saving approximately 60 million lives over the past 36 years.