BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

October 29, 2018

Research Roundup: Suppository drug cuts child malaria deaths, J&J touts latest immune response data for 'mosaic' HIV vaccine program, and game changer TB drug

Ansley Kahn
Program Assistant
GHTC
PATH/Gabe Bienczycki

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A 12-month pilot research study conducted in rural Zambia found that administering a suppository form of a malaria-fighting drug to children without immediate access to a health facility drastically cut the number of child deaths caused by the disease. During the pilot, child deaths related to severe malaria were cut from eight percent to 0.25 percent. There were only three child deaths during the study period—94 fewer than would be expected in the same time frame, according to Medicines for Malaria Venture, one of the study’s research partners. During the pilot, all children suspected of having severe malaria were given the suppositories as a pre-referral treatment. This form of drug offers advantages as it can be administered even if a child is unconscious or vomiting. Children who received the suppository were then transferred to a health facility where they were given injectable artesunate malaria medication, followed by a three-day oral antimalarial treatment course. Researchers hope this model can be replicated in other rural settings where there is a high prevalence of malaria and limited access to health workers.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) unveiled promising early-stage results for a tetravalent mosaic-based HIV preventative vaccine regimen. This announcement follows a large-scale efficacy study J&J launched last November to test the tetravalent vaccine regimen in five sub-Saharan African countries. In this early-stage study, known as TRAVERSE, a vaccine regimen including the tetravalent vaccine candidate—which targets four strains of the HIV virus—was found to broaden immune responses to different HIV-1 strains when compared to the trivalent, or three-strain, version. J&J is conducting the TRAVERSE study in 200 patients in the United States and Rwanda. Study participants will receive two prime doses of either vaccine, followed by two boosters at weeks 24 and 48. These initial results are from after week 28, or after the first boost. J&J said findings from the TRAVERSE study were critical to the company’s decision to start the large-scale efficacy testing.

In a clinical trial conducted in Belarus, a new treatment for a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis (TB)—bedaquiline—administered alongside other antibiotics, was found to cure 80 percent of individuals. Of the 181 trial participants given the drug regimen, 168 completed the course and 144 were cured. The Belarus cure rate was largely replicated in bedaquiline trials in other nations in eastern Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia. According to the World Health Organization, cases of multidrug-resistant TB have been reported in at least 117 countries around the world with only 55 percent of people treated successfully.

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