December 07, 2014

Research Roundup: a weakened HIV virus, SDGs, powdered measles vaccine, and more

Marissa Chmiola
Communications Officer

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

According to a recent study out of Oxford University, rapid evolution of the HIV virus is slowing the virus’s ability to cause AIDS. In this study of 2,000 women in South Africa and Botswana, researchers found that the HIV virus had evolved to adapt to a specific gene known as HLA-B*57, which provides some protective effect against HIV, slowing the progress to AIDS. As the virus has adapted to reduce this protective effect in individuals, the virus has also reduced its ability to replicate, making it less virulent over all.

Last Thursday, the UN Secretary-General launched his synthesis report for the sustainable development goals. In this report, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reaffirmed his support for the 17 goals and 160 targets proposed by the United Nations Open Working Group, despite concerns from some member states that the current list is too long. Of the 17 proposed goals, two contain targets related to the research and development of new technologies.

Researchers are developing a powdered form of the measles vaccine which could make it easier and safer to deliver the vaccine to people in developing nations. The current FDA-approved measles vaccine is a live virus that has been freeze-dried into a powder, which requires reconstitution with water before being administered via syringe. The new vaccine under development is a powder that can be inhaled. This new formulation would eliminate the need for sterile water and needles, as well as cold-chain storage.

A modified regimen of the HIV vaccine candidate RV144 was shown to be safe and capable of inducing a robust immune response in safety trials in South Africa. RV144—which was developed by the US and Thai military—showed early promise in clinical trials, but it was found to lose efficacy over time. This new regime is the same earlier RV144 vaccine regime with an added booster shot one year later. Further clinical trials of this new regime are set to begin in South Africa in early 2015.

Posted in: