October 01, 2017

Research Roundup: An effective Rotavirus vaccine, prioritizing pediatric TB diagnostics, and a powerful HIV antibody

Program Assistant
PATH/Georgina Goodwin

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

A new low-cost and heat-stable vaccine—ROTASIL—has been found effective against severe rotavirus in phase III clinical trials. The vaccine, which was developed by the Serum Institute of India and tested in partnership with PATH, had an efficacy of nearly 39 percent in children with severe rotavirus and 55 percent against a very severe form of rotavirus. The vaccine is a hybrid of bovine and human rotavirus and is capable of targeting all five rotavirus serotypes. Indian children face a high burden of rotavirus, as the country accounts for 22 percent of all rotavirus deaths worldwide.

A GeneXpert machine. (Photo: PATH/Georgina Goodwin)

India is rolling out a new program to expedite the diagnosis of pediatric tuberculosis (TB) and multi-drug resistant TB cases to speed treatment. While children generally respond well to TB treatments, a pediatric TB case is usually severe and requires a quick, accurate diagnosis to ensure effective treatment. FIND and the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program have worked in India to establish an infrastructure to aid in accurately and quickly diagnosing children, developing a courier system to quickly relay samples from clinic to lab for diagnosis and relay results back to the health provider via text message within 24 hours. The organizations have also led an initiative that has added over 600 GeneXpert diagnostic machines throughout India. India’s goal is to make the GeneXpert machines a front-line tool for TB diagnosis.

Research conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Sanofi has created an antibody capable of killing 99 percent of HIV strains. Fighting HIV is difficult because of the virus’ ability to mutate quickly, which often results in the presence of numerous different HIV strains in a single patient. NIH and Sanofi harnessed the natural defense system of a small number of people who produce broadly neutralizing antibodies,” which can kill up to 90 percent of HIV strains in the body. The researchers combined three antibodies to produce a tri-specific antibody that has proved to be more effective than any naturally occurring antibody yet discovered. The first human clinical trial is planned for 2018.