July 29, 2018

Research Roundup: Congo confirms the end of its Ebola outbreak, new treatments for HIV and malaria

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
PATH/Patrick McKern

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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.

The latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo was officially declared over last Tuesday, following a 42-day observation period since the last new case was reported. Health experts credit the use of an experimental vaccine and a speedy and effective response by both the government and the World Health Organization as key factors in controlling this outbreak.

Two clinical studies revealed that GlaxoSmithKline’s two-drug treatment for HIV, a combination of dolutegravir and lamivudine, also known as 3TC, is as effective as the standard triple therapy. Crucially, the studies showed that the efficacy of the treatment was consistent whether individuals had higher or lower levels of HIV in their blood, dispelling notions that the two-drug regimen might not work as well in people with more virus. Questions remain regarding the durability of treatment and potential drug resistance, given that the data only spans a 48-week period. The two-drug combination is slated for regulatory submission later this year.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved the first new treatment for Plasmodium vivax malaria in 60 years. The drug, tafenoquine, is a single-dose treatment developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Medicines for Malaria Venture. P. vivax malaria causes around 8.5 million infections every year in Asia, Latin America, and parts of Africa. The disease is tricky to combat because the P. vivax parasite can lie dormant in the liver, where it reactivates, and can cause new episodes of malaria weeks, months, and years after the initial infection. In a study of 522 patients, 60 percent saw no relapse six months after taking the drug. Tafenoquine has been submitted for approval to the Australian regulatory authority and is slated to be submitted for approval in malaria endemic countries.