March 22, 2015

Research Roundup: new discoveries in the search for a malaria vaccine and tuberculosis treatment and lessons from the Ebola epidemic

Senior Program Assistant

A team of scientists at Heinrich-Heine Universität Düsseldorf have identified a potential new player in the fight against tuberculosis (TB). Researchers have isolated several compounds with the ability to combat Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB, from a collection of marine sponges indigenous to Indonesia. Initial experiments suggest that resistance to the compounds is possible, but develops slowly. Moving forward, the team will examine how the compounds target and combat TB and how resistance can be averted.

A study published in Immunity journal last week answers critical questions in the search for a malaria vaccine. Antibodies alone have proven ineffective in fighting malaria; new research, however, indicates that malaria antibodies enlist proteins in the blood to aid in the immune response. These proteins, known as complements, help coat the malaria organism, which blocks it from infecting red blood cells. Researchers at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, Australia, hope to work with pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine that triggers the necessary response from complement proteins.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, contended that the world is not prepared to fight a global pandemic. Gates cited the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa, calling for increased investments in health systems strengthening, disease surveillance, and research and development (R&D) for drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics. Gates also emphasized the need for regulatory policies that expedite R&D in emergency situations.