December 17, 2017

Research Roundup: A powerful single-dose Cholera vaccine, breakthrough in understanding the malaria parasite, and a rapid urine test for TB

Program Assistant
PATH/Mike Wang

In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

A single, high-dose cholera vaccine—Vaxchora—could be an effective tool in controlling outbreaks more rapidly, according to new research from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The current cholera vaccine consists of two doses of the inactivated virus administered over two weeks, but researchers believe they have developed a stronger, single dose vaccine approach that will be more effective in combatting outbreaks because it can be deployed more rapidly and easily. Researchers plan to further study how this vaccine may help curb outbreaks early before they become widespread and its potential use in preemptive vaccination. They also plan to study the vaccine’s effectiveness in children under the age of five—one of the most burdened demographics of cholera.

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine discovered a way to prohibit malaria-causing parasites from shielding themselves against treatment in mice, which could open new avenues for drug development. While the most common malaria medicines are effective at reducing the level of parasites in the blood, some of these parasites enter a latent stage during treatment, allowing them to survive through the treatment and eventually reinfect the individual after he or she has ceased taking medication. This process makes treating malaria more challenging and dangerous, particularly among individuals who do not have consistent access to therapies. Researchers discovered the molecular mechanism that leads to these parasites entering the latent stage and how to inhibit it, which they hope will lead to medicines that prevent treatment failure and subsequent reinfection.

Researchers may have developed a urine test to detect tuberculosis (TB) in patients, according to a paper published in Science Translational Medicine. Current TB diagnostics include skin and culture tests that require a high level of expertise to carry out correctly. A new method, like a rapid urine test, will allow lower skilled health workers in TB-endemic areas to carry out quick and effective TB diagnostic tests. A study of 42 individuals in Peru found the test had greater than 95 percent sensitivity—or the ability to correctly identify those with the disease. Furthermore, researchers reported this test can be used to diagnose TB at any stage and among HIV-negative populations—populations who usually have more mild concentrations of the bacteria in the body.