August 19, 2018

Research Roundup: Innovations in bednets, contraception, and Zika vaccination trials

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
PATH/Gabe Bienczycki

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Clinical trials have begun for the latest vaccine candidate against the Zika virus. The trial, which will include 28 adult participants, will test the safety and immune response from the vaccine, which contains a weakened form of the virus created from the combined genetic material of different viral strains. If the vaccine candidate is found to be safe, it could be added to another vaccine candidate currently undergoing testing for effectiveness against four types of dengue—creating a single vaccine against both diseases. Both vaccine candidates were developed at the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

On August 10, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Annovera, the first-of-its-kind self-insertable contraceptive vaginal ring that can be used for an entire year. Annovera, developed by the Population Council, is being heralded as a revolutionary new option for low-income women as it can be used for a year without a return trip to the physician or pharmacy and does not require refrigeration. Along with the benefits it offers regarding convenience, Annovera also offers women versatility. “Annovera offers the convenience of a long-acting method like the IUD because there is no daily action needed, but the control of a short-acting method like the pill because a woman can start or stop it at any time,” said Julia Bunting, president of the Population Council. Although pricing for Annovera has not yet been made public, the Population Council is continuing its efforts to make the product available to the approximately 214 million women in low- and middle-income countries that have an unmet need for contraception. Annovera is expected to hit the market at the end of 2019 or early 2020.

A new type of bednet—that combines a chemical that kills mosquitoes with another that impedes their reproduction—was found to reduce clinical malaria cases by 12 percent, compared to conventional nets, during a two-year clinical trial in Burkina Faso. The study also showed a 51 percent reduction in risk of a malaria-infective mosquito bite in areas with the combination bednets. The bednets used in the study combine a pyrethroid insecticide, which repels and kills mosquitoes, with pyriproxyfen, an insect growth regulator that shortens the lives of mosquitoes and reduces their ability to reproduce. With mosquitoes increasingly becoming resistant to the pyrethroids used in conventional nets, these bednets offer an alternative to fighting malaria in areas where mosquitoes have become resistant.