Research Roundup: Drug and vaccine combo bolsters malaria prevention, chikungunya vaccine enters phase 2/3 trials, and smartphone-based COVID-19 test gets EUA
New study results show that combining antimalarial drugs with a vaccine, given just before peak transmission period of rainy season, could reduce malaria deaths in children by more than 70 percent. The trial—conducted over three years among 6,000 young children in Burkina Faso and Mali—tested the RTS,S malaria vaccine, the world’s first-developed shot for the disease, along with seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC), an existing preventative drug regimen. Results indicated the RTS,S vaccine was as effective as SMC when administered to children ahead of rainy season in countries with seasonal transmission—and that combining the two methods reduced cases by around 60 percent, hospitalizations by around 70 percent, and deaths by around 73 percent, when compared to SMC alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to review evidence from the study in October.
The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) and Bharat Biotech have launched a phase 2/3 trial for their chikungunya vaccine candidate. The two-dose vaccine, BBV87, is an inactivated whole virion vaccine, which showed “optimum immune response” in phase 1 studies in India. The phase 2/3 trial, led by IVI through the Global Chikungunya vaccine Clinical Development Program (GCCDP) in partnership with Bharat Biotech and supported by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the government of India’s epidemic preparedness initiative, Ind-CEPI, will test BBV87 for safety and immunogenicity in healthy adults. GCCDP aims to develop and manufacture an affordable chikungunya vaccine with the goal of achieving WHO prequalification to enable distribution in low- and middle-income countries. The trial has begun in Costa Rica and is set to expand to Panama, Colombia, Thailand, and Guatemala in the coming months.
On Tuesday, the US Food and Drug Administration granted its first emergency use authorization for an at-home COVID-19 diagnostic that delivers results through the user’s smartphone. The Veritor rapid antigen test, developed by BD and Scanwell Health, involves swishing a nasal swab in a tube of liquid reagents, after which drops on a testing strip trigger colored lines, which are then read and interpreted by the smartphone. The diagnostic is designed for use by individuals ages 14 and up and can be used for children as young as two with samples collected by an adult. The digital test, which does not require a prescription, will initially be made available to employers, schools, and public health organizations looking to support routine screening programs.