BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

November 04, 2019

Research Roundup: New Zika blood test, TB vaccine shows sustained protection, first Lassa fever vaccine set for trial by year's end

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
GHTC
PATH/Satvir Malhotra

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A new blood test for Zika that can detect the virus within a few hours has been approved for production and use by the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency. The test can detect the virus in infected patients in less than four hours, a dramatically shorter turnaround time than current methods which can take anywhere from 15 to 30 days. This test is also highly accurate in people who have contracted other diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegyptis mosquito, whereas existing lab tests have challenges in differentiating between infections. The test will be produced by a Brazilian company, AdvaGen Biotech, and sold at no more than US$10 per test so that it’s available to most labs, according to the lead scientist who developed the tool.

An experimental tuberculosis (TB) vaccine has shown nearly 50 percent protection against progression of active TB in clinical trials, researchers reported last week at the 50th Union World Congress on Lung Health in Hyderabad, India. These final findings from a phase 2b trial confirm earlier results first reported in 2018 for the vaccine M72/AS01E, developed by GlaxoSmithKline and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and put the world one step closer to developing a better vaccine against the disease. Currently, the only available TB vaccine is the bacilli Calmette-Guerin vaccine. Developed in 1921, it is fairly effective for infants and young children, but its protection varies widely in adults. Researchers concluded that trial results support further evaluation of the vaccine as a tool for global TB control, including confirming results in larger, longer studies and broader populations.

A Lassa fever vaccine candidate that could offer protection in a single injection was selected by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to be advanced into human clinical trials by the end of the year. This vaccine, which is based on the measles vaccine platform, was the most effective single-injection vaccine candidate against Lassa fever evaluated by scientists at the Institut Pasteur and offered protection two days after immunization. Lassa fever is a hemorrhagic fever endemic to West Africa and infects up to 300,000 people per year, killing between 5,000 and 6,000.

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