BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

April 2, 2018

Research Roundup: R&D to defeat MRSA, West Nile Virus, and malaria-carrying mosquitoes

Taylor Capizola
Program Assistant
GHTC
PATH/Gabe Bienczycki

 

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In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

 

A new study suggests that a newly discovered class of antibiotics could potentially wipe out drug-resistant staph infections caused by MRSA, raising hope for progress in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Scientists at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence focused on MRSA because infection produces “persister” cells—cells that evade common antibiotic treatment by lying dormant in the body. The research team tested thousands of lab-made molecules on roundworms infected with MRSA and discovered two molecules from the retinoid family that not only killed normal MRSA cells, but also the “persister” cells as well. While these retinoids were not effective against another group of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and other conditions; they still hold promise in treating persistent and antibiotic-resistant forms of MRSA, which can be lethal to patients.

Scientists at Yale University have developed a new experimental RNA therapy, delivered via the nose, to treat West Nile Virus infections. In mice studies, the therapy reduced the viral load in the brain, allowing the organism’s immune system to properly destroy the remainder of the virus throughout the body as well as develop long-term protection against future exposure. By using RNA molecules that are effective against flaviviruses combined with a peptide derived from the rabies virus that is able to interfere with nerve cells and delivering them through the nose, scientists were able to bypass the blood-brain barrier to kill the virus in the brain with 90 percent effectiveness in the mice studies. There is currently no approved vaccine or effective therapy to treat West Nile Virus.

A new study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases suggests that the medication ivermectin can make human blood deadly to malaria-carrying mosquitoes, offering a new potential strategy to fight this deadly disease. Researchers at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine found that three high doses of invermectin—a medicine originally developed to combat river blindness and elephantiasis—made human blood toxic to mosquitoes for 28 days after the third treatment, while producing few side effects in patients. In lab tests, 97 percent of mosquitoes died within two weeks of feeding on the blood with ivermectin. While more research is needed, this discovery could offer a potential new approach to complement existing malaria control programs.

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