July 09, 2018

Research Roundup: An HIV vaccine shows promise, Paraguay conquers malaria, and tackling malaria using veterinary drugs

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
PATH/Georgina Goodwin

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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.

An HIV vaccine candidate has shown promising results in human trials. A study in the Lancet found that this “mosaic” vaccine—comprised of pieces of different HIV strains—produced an anti-HIV immune system response in tests on 393 people. Further testing is required to determine if the immune response produced can prevent the HIV infection in people. In the next phase of testing, 2,600 women from southern Africa who are at risk of contracting HIV will receive the vaccine. This is one of only five HIV vaccine candidates to ever make it to this stage of efficacy trials.

Paraguay has eliminated malaria, becoming the first country in the Americas to achieve this milestone in approximately a half-century, according to the World Health Organization. Public health officials have credited the national health system’s ability to quickly detect cases and determine whether they had been transmitted locally or imported as critical to Paraguay’s success. Though Paraguay has thwarted the threat of malaria for the moment, nine countries in the Americas reported at least a 20 percent increase in malaria cases between 2015 and 2016. Complacency and lack of political will in other countries in the region threaten the fight against malaria.

Scientists at the California Institute for Biomedical Research are testing a new approach to tackling malaria and other insect-borne diseases using a group of veterinary drugs called isoxazolines. When administered orally to animals, isoxazolines remain in the bloodstream for up to three months, killing blood-sucking insects by damaging their nervous systems. The researchers believe isoxazolines have the potential to dramatically reduce the transmission of malaria, as any mosquito who bites a person who has taken this drug would be killed before transmitting the disease to other people. The study published by the California Institute for Biomedical Research estimates that giving 30 percent of the population isoxazolines in countries affected by malaria could prevent more than 70 percent of malaria infections. Researchers believe that isoxazolines are safe for human consumption and plan to continue to evaluate their efficacy.