BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

November 5, 2018

Research Roundup: Effective experimental Ebola treatments, once-monthly injection to suppress HIV, and malaria-detecting dogs

Ansley Kahn
Program Assistant
GHTC
PATH/Satvir Malhotra

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Experimental treatments for Ebola administered during the most recent outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) appear to be working, according to preliminary data presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Four treatments are in use, including remdesivir, an antiviral drug; mAb114, a human antibody cloned from a survivor of an outbreak years ago in Zaire; REGN-EB3, a cocktail of cloned human antibodies; and ZMapp, a cocktail of antibodies made from a blend of human and mouse proteins. The death rate among patients in the DRC who received one or more of the experimental treatments was 43 percent—32 percent if the count excluded patients who were within hours of death when they arrived at the hospital. Experimental treatments for Ebola administered during the most recent outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) appear to be working, according to preliminary data presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Four treatments are in use, including remdesivir, an antiviral drug; mAb114, a human antibody cloned from a survivor of an outbreak years ago in Zaire; REGN-EB3, a cocktail of cloned human antibodies; and ZMapp, a cocktail of antibodies made from a blend of human and mouse proteins. The death rate among patients in the DRC who received one or more of the experimental treatments was 43 percent—32 percent if the count excluded patients who were within hours of death when they arrived at the hospital. This compares to a death rate of 68 percent for Ebola patients in hospitals before the new treatments were approved for emergency use.

A once-monthly injection proved as effective in suppressing HIV as daily pills in a second study by GlaxoSmithKline—potentially paving the way for a new treatment regimen that could be simpler for some people living with and seeking to suppress HIV. In the study, HIV-positive adults—who had not been on a long-established, daily three-drug oral regimen—were put on a 20-week, three-drug program of daily pills to suppress the virus before being switched to a monthly two-drug injection of cabotegravir and rilpivirine. After 48 weeks, the injection maintained a similar rate of suppression as the pills, supporting the results of an earlier study which involved adults who were on a daily, three-drug oral regimen to control the virus. The trial provides further evidence that a long-acting injection could offer an alternative to a daily, oral treatment regimen for people who previously achieved viral suppression.

Dogs could offer a noninvasive way to detect malaria, according to a recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. In the study, a trio of dogs correctly “sniffed out” socks worn by malaria-infected children 70 percent of the time and those worn by non-infected children 90 percent of the time. The study focused on asymptomatic malaria carriers because of their key role in malaria’s persistence, since they act as hidden reservoirs of the disease. In the study, nylon socks were given to nearly 600 Gambian children to wear overnight and then frozen for 15 months while the dogs were trained to sniff out the disease, as previous research has shown that malaria alters the compounds that make up a person’s odor. While it may not be economically feasible to train and deploy dogs to all malaria-endemic countries, malaria-detection dogs could work at ports of entry in countries that have eliminated the disease and want to keep it out. This research also provides further evidence of the capabilities of dogs and their ability to help detect deadly diseases.

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