Research Roundup: New work in malaria and HIV diagnostics and a widespread immunization campaign in Brazil
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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.
A breath test could be an alternative approach to malaria diagnostics, according to a new study conducted by Washington University in St. Louis. The study focused on malaria-infected children in Malawi and showed that they had a different set of compounds in their breath compared to healthy children. Based on these compounds, researchers were then able to diagnose malaria infection with 83 percent accuracy. There is a critical need for alternative diagnostic methods for malaria, especially as the common, rapid diagnostic blood test is becoming less effective over time. More research is needed to study this diagnostic approach across different populations affected by malaria, but researchers are hopeful about this new avenue of malaria diagnostics.
Researchers at the New York University College of Dentistry in collaboration with Rheonix Inc. have modified an existing model used for rapid HIV testing to test for the Zika virus. The newly developed test uses saliva for rapid identification of the diagnostic markers of the Zika virus and is an improvement over conventional Zika diagnostic techniques that require blood and can take hours to provide results. Further, this new test allows researchers to approximate the viral load in a saliva sample, allowing them to understand the severity of Zika and the body’s response to the virus, which is useful, especially among pregnant women. Researchers are optimistic about this test because it is quick and requires little training.
Following a severe outbreak of yellow fever throughout Brazil, the country launched last month the world’s largest vaccine campaign using a fractional dose of the yellow fever vaccine. The goal of the campaign is to provide a fractional dose of the vaccine—one-fifth of the regular dose—to those living in 69 municipalities in the country, which will provide up to a year of protection against the illness. Though Brazil hopes to immunize 22.3 million individuals, only about 3.95 million have been vaccinated at this point. While this is not the first time fractional dosing of yellow fever vaccines have been used during an outbreak, this large-scale campaign will provide evidence and data for researchers aiming to implement similar campaigns to advance the goal of eliminating yellow fever epidemics globally by 2026.