BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

August 18, 2014

Research Roundup: New malaria drugs, chikungunya vaccines, Africa Leaders Summit, preterm births coalition, and more

Senior Program Assistant
GHTC

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

This month, after nearly ten years of effort, the first batch of malaria drugs manufactured with a new, semisynthetic form of a key ingredient, artemisinin, will start reaching African countries battling the disease. The lifesaving drugs, manufactured by Sanofi—a French pharmaceutical company—are the first of their kind to use semisynthetic artemisinin in place of the plant-derived form of artemisinin used in the past. The new shipment marks a milestone in global health, potentially improving access to treatment for the millions of people, mostly African children, sickened by malaria every year.

The Global Coalition to Advance Preterm Birth Research (GCAPR), a new partnership initiated by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the March of Dimes Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and GHTC member the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth, has been created to take on the high rate of preterm births and help prevent the health risks associated with them. An estimated 15 million babies are born preterm every year and more than 1 million die within the first 30 days of birth.

The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has performed a successful early-stage clinical trial for a vaccine against mosquito-borne viral illness chikungunya. There are currently no vaccines or specific drugs to prevent or treat chikungunya, and as of this month there have been more than 570,000 confirmed or suspected cases reported throughout North and South America.

The first-ever Africa Leaders Summit this month was a clear example that partnerships between the United States and African nations are strong and building momentum. The summit was a busy few days with a flurry of announcements, but the practical implications of the summit for global health innovation were examined by GHTC Policy Officer Ashley Bennett in a recent post on Breakthroughs.

In The Huffington Post’s blog, Dr. Jonathan Mermin—director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention—writes about the need for new tools to fight tuberculosis (TB). He states, “Until we have better ways of detecting and treating TB, thousands of Americans and millions of people worldwide will continue to suffer from an illness that should have been consigned to history long ago.”

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