BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

July 15, 2019

Research Roundup: a two-drug HIV treatment found equally effective as three drugs, experimental Ebola treatments show promise in lab study, and WHO upgrades list of essential diagnostic tests

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
GHTC
PATH/Patrick McKern

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Last Wednesday, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced its two-drug HIV regimen, Dovato, was successful in suppressing the virus in patients over a 48-week period at the same level of a previous three-drug treatment in a late-stage trial. The study evaluated the effectiveness of Dovato in adults with HIV-1 virus, the most widespread strain, who switched to the regimen from at least a triple combination containing Gilead’s Vemlidy. GSK’s HIV drugs division, ViiV, noted that adults who used Dovato did not develop any resistance to the treatment. Dovato, a combination of dolutegravir and lamivudine, was approved in the United States in April for newly diagnosed patients. GSK already has a two-drug regimen, Juluca, on the market but only for HIV patients that have received prior treatment.

Two experimental Ebola drugs, an antiviral called remdesivir and an antibody treatment called ZMapp, have been found to be effective in laboratory studies in treating the strain of the virus responsible for the deaths of more than 1,600 people in the current outbreak affecting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to this new research performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in laboratory studies both drugs inhibited the growth of the virus strain in human cells. These two treatments were developed based on strains from previous outbreaks, and this study was the first to test them on the strain causing the current outbreak, which researchers are calling the Ituri strain. According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ebola outbreak in DRC has killed 1,630 people with 2,418 total cases—making it the second biggest outbreak of the disease in history.

On July 9, WHO published updates to two lists critical for global health: the twenty-first WHO Model List of Essential Medicines and the second WHO Model List of Essential Diagnostics (EDL). These lists help countries prioritize critical health products that should be available, accessible, and affordable in a health system. While the first EDL, developed in 2018, covered a limited number of priority diseases, the second list has expanded to include more noncommunicable and communicable diseases, consisting of 122 test categories. In this editorial piece, Dr. Madhukar Pai, Canada Research Chair of Epidemiology & Global Health at McGill University, explains what’s included in the EDL, what follow up is required by low-and middle-income countries (LMIC) to make the list work, and the LMIC investment required to develop the diagnostic tests and laboratories necessary to deliver on universal health coverage and to better detect outbreaks, antimicrobial resistance, and pandemics.

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