Research Roundup: Tech hub to boost African vaccine access, UK launches trial on ivermectin, and FDA authorizes saliva-based antibody test
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The first technology transfer hub for mRNA COVID-19 vaccines will be established in South Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week. The hub will assist in scaling production of and access to doses across the African continent by providing training on mRNA technologies for manufacturers from low- and middle-income countries and licensing them for local production. The hub is still in the process of securing agreements with manufacturers of mRNA vaccines, the technology of which is potentially easier to scale than alternatives and could be faster and easier to adapt for COVID-19 variants of concern. If knowledge of the way to produce an existing mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is transferred to the new hub in South Africa, doses could be produced at the site in the next 9 to 12 months, according to WHO.
Scientists at the University of Oxford will evaluate Ivermectin in a new clinical trial to prevent hospitalization among people with COVID-19 symptoms. Ivermectin, most commonly used to treat parasitic infections, has been promoted for use against COVID-19 in several regions despite a current lack of clinical data to support its use. There have been early, “promising” results from small and observational studies, but it would be “premature” to recommend Ivermectin for COVID-19, according to a researcher from the upcoming trial. The Oxford team said they selected Ivermectin to be included in the trial because it was readily available globally and known to be relatively safe.
The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization to a COVID-19 antibody test that uses mouth swabs, rather than blood samples, to detect the presence of IgA, IgG, and IgM antibodies. The rapid, saliva-based test, called CovAb, delivers a result within 15 minutes and does not require any additional hardware or instruments. The authorization allows the diagnostic to be used at the point of care among adults and children. In clinical trials, CovAb demonstrated a false-negative rate of less than 3 percent and a false-positive rate of nearly 1 percent when administered at least 15 days after the onset of symptoms, when the body’s antibody response reaches higher levels.