March 11, 2018

R&D breakthroughs for tuberculosis, cholera and the power of a gene-edited mosquito

Program Assistant
Umit Kartoglu

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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 daily, one-month tuberculosis (TB) prophylaxis regime may provide the same protection for HIV-positive individuals as the standard nine-month prophylactic regime, according to a new study. HIV-positive individuals are at heightened risk of contracting TB, and TB kills more people with HIV than any other disease, including AIDS-associated illnesses. The phase III study found that while protection rates against TB were similar in a group receiving one-month of treatment versus nine-months, toxicity was lower in the one-month group and fewer people in the one-month group experienced neurologic and liver events, though more people in the one-month group experienced hematologic events, including anemia and drops in white blood cell counts. Researchers need to study the regimen further, but these results are promising. A shorter, simplified TB prophylaxis regimen could improve patient adherence.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Malaria Research Institute used CRISPR, a gene-editing tool, to make mosquitos highly resistant to the malaria parasite, making it much less likely for the mosquito to transmit the parasite to humans. Scientists used CRISPR to delete a gene—FREP1—that helps the parasite survive in the mosquito's gut and develop further, making the malaria parasites within the mosquito much less likely to survive and reproduce. This study marks the first time a mosquito has been rendered resistant to malaria by deleting a gene. Scientists believe replacing wild mosquitos with these gene-edited mosquitos could dramatically reduce the incidence and subsequent burden of malaria in local populations.

It may be possible to create a drinkable solution to provide protection to individuals during a cholera epidemic, according to new research. Cholera is set off by a toxin, which attaches to the intestinal wall and causes life-threatening diarrhea. Researchers found that introducing certain molecules into the intestine can prevent the cholera toxin from binding to specific receptors on the intestinal surface. The researchers believe these results offer the possibility of creating a drinkable antidote that would put these receptors offline. This solution could be easier and quicker to administer than vaccines in an epidemic scenario, helping immediately reduce the spread of cholera in an affected area.


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