June 11, 2017

Research Roundup: Malaria and bone density, a fatal vaccine error, and a sponsored Chikungunya trial

Program Assistant
PATH/Gabe Bienczycki

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

A study recently published in Science Immunology found that mice infected with malaria had shorter thigh bones than their control counterparts by ten percent, suggesting if the same effect takes place in human, children could suffer stunted growth due to malaria infection. Researchers found the malaria parasite left behind waste which killed the mice’s bones, resulting in the disruption of cells responsible for breaking down and rebuilding bones. The researchers found a possible solution, however. By giving the mice a derivative of vitamin D, they were able to stimulate more bone regrowth and suppress the breakdown of bone.

Uniject devices surrounded by ice packs in a vaccine carrier. (PATH/Shirley Villadiego)

Fifteen children have died in a rural South Sudanese village after one needle was used over the course of multiple days with a vaccine that was not stored properly. Almost 50 individuals fell ill after being inoculated on the same day, resulting in 15 deaths due to either sepsis or a related toxicity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the series of events were a result of a lack of training and qualification from the individual administering the vaccines, who failed to adhere to WHO immunization safety standards. South Sudan has been affected by a years-long civil war which has reduced the ability to carry out health care services. Immunization coverage has fallen from 77 percent before the conflict down to 44 percent. 

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institutes of Health have sponsored a phase 1-2 Chikungunya vaccine trial at three different sites around the United States, including Emory University, Baylor College of Medicine, and the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The study will focus on three groups, one receiving a high-dose vaccine, one receiving a low-dose vaccine, and a control group. The results will help establish the best dosage and timing for the vaccine. If this trial is successful, the vaccine could become an important tool to combat the Chikungunya endemic in Eastern Africa and prevent the spread of cases within the United States.