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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.

June 13, 2022 by Anna Kovacevich

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On Wednesday, Moderna released preliminary results on its updated COVID-19 vaccine booster targeting omicron showing a significantly stronger immune response against the variant than the existing vaccine. The results come from a clinical trial among 814 volunteers testing a booster dose that combines the original vaccine with one that specifically targets omicron. The updated booster shot followed three earlier doses of Moderna’s vaccine. Among individuals with no evidence of prior COVID-19 infection, the new combination produced 1.75 times the level of neutralizing antibodies against omicron as the existing vaccine did alone. While the updated booster is promising against the omicron variant, some experts noted the evolving virus continues to lead to new variants and subvariants, potentially outpacing the ability to modify vaccines. US Food and Drug Administration advisers are set to meet June 28 to discuss which vaccine formulation would work best as a booster in the fall.

The World Health Organization (WHO) published new guidelines last week for the treatment of people coinfected with visceral leishmaniasis and HIV, recommending better treatments based on studies conducted by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Médecins Sans Frontières, and partners in Ethiopia and India. In the Indian study, the new recommended treatment—a combination of injectable liposomal amphotericin B and oral miltefosine—demonstrated 96 percent efficacy after 210 days, compared to 88 percent for the current standard treatment. In the Ethiopian study, the new treatment demonstrated 88 percent efficacy after 58 days, compared to 55 percent for the standard treatment. The new regimen also reduces the use of injectable drugs and shortens the duration of treatment. Researchers plan to continue efforts to develop an even better treatment that will be completely oral, safe, and efficacious.

The first participants have been vaccinated in a phase 3 study of an influenza vaccine developed by Moderna based on mRNA technology used in its COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine, mRNA-1010, encodes for hemagglutinin glycoproteins of the four influenza strains recommended by WHO for the prevention of influenza. mRNA-1010 is the first of several influenza vaccine candidates intended to improve upon traditional vaccines, according to Moderna, by inducing broad, robust immune responses and employing the flexibility and speed of the mRNA platform manufacturing process. The trial will enroll around 6,000 adults in the southern hemisphere to evaluate the safety and immunological efficacy of the vaccine in comparison to a licensed seasonal flu vaccine. The company plans to run a confirmatory efficacy study for the vaccine as early as the 2022-23 northern hemisphere flu season.

About the author

Anna KovacevichGHTC

Anna Kovacevich is a senior program assistant at GHTC who supports GHTC's communications and member engagement activities.