Research Roundup: An experimental Ebola vaccine, new viruses discovered, and Australian experiment wipes out disease-carrying mosquitoes
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In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.
Spanish researchers at Madrid's October 12 Hospital are working to develop what would be the world’s first vaccine against all five strains of the Ebola virus. The research team, along with scientists at two other hospitals in Madrid,
have examined blood samples taken from three people cured of Ebola in Spain. These three people produced what lead researcher, Rafael Delgado, called
‘very effective’ antibodies against the Zaire strain with which they were infected. Delgado noted researchers aim to reproduce these antibodies on
a larger scale that would make them effective against all five strains of the Ebola virus. An experimental vaccine developed by Merck was administered
during the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo in May; however, it is only effective against the Zaire strain.
PREDICT, a global surveillance program that aims to avert future pandemics in the human population, has discovered a new virus that infects wrinkle-lipped bats. The virus, discovered in Myanmar, is the first of its kind to be detected on a global scale and is in the same virus family as the ones that cause SARS and MERS. The research team also identified among the Myanmar bats a second new virus previously found in Thailand, conveying how diseases can easily spread globally. Although these new viruses are related to viruses that have previously caused deadly epidemics in humans, more research is required to determine if either new virus poses a threat to humans.
An experiment by Australian researchers has killed 80 percent of disease-carrying mosquitoes in trial locations across north Queensland. The experiment—carried out by scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and James Cook University, in partnership with Verily—targeted a specific type of mosquito, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads diseases such as Zika and dengue fever. Using a process called the Sterile Insect Technique, researchers bred almost 20 million mosquitoes, infecting males with bacteria that made them sterile. The sterile male mosquitos did not bite or spread disease and when they mated, the resulting eggs did not hatch causing a crash in the population. Further field trials may be held in other parts of Australia.