Research Roundup: Pledges from the UN High-Level Meeting on TB, TB vaccine trial success, and gene editing mosquitoes
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At the first-ever United Nations (UN) High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Tuberculosis (TB), member states committed to finding and treating 40 million people suffering from TB and to preventing infection in 30 million people by 2022. The political outcome declaration resulting from the HLM includes a commitment to mobilize US $13 billion for universal access to quality treatments and prevention and $2 billion for research and development (R&D) of new drugs, diagnostics, vaccines, and other tools. In addition, it highlights the need to address drug-resistant forms of TB and commits to complying with global stewardship programs in line with the UN resolution on antimicrobial resistance.
An experimental vaccine,
developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Aeras, reduced by half the incidence of active TB among individuals with latent TB infection in clinical trials—making
it potentially the first new shot to fight the disease in over a century. Results from the Phase IIb trial of the vaccine, known as M72/AS01, show
a 54 percent efficacy rate in stopping latent TB from becoming active and causing sickness. This experimental vaccine has the potential to help the
estimated 1.7 billion people who have latent TB infection and are at risk of developing the disease that killed 1.6 billion people last year. The experimental
vaccine will go through larger trials in the future to test its dosing schedule and to potentially target different groups that are most likely to
benefit from the vaccine.
A team of scientists at the Imperial College of London has developed a method of manipulating mosquito genetics to drive populations of mosquitoes toward extinction. The manipulation involves a gene drive that alters a stretch of DNA that does not vary from one mosquito to another. The altered gene disrupts a mosquito’s sexual development, making female mosquitoes infertile while forcing males to pass on the debilitating gene to all of their offspring—resulting in the population crashing over multiple generations. Results from the study in Anophele gambiae mosquitoes showed that laboratory populations of mosquitoes can become extinct within 11 generations and, according to computer models, wild populations of mosquitoes could crash in approximately 4 years. This manipulation of mosquitoes may provide a potential method of ridding the world of malaria—a disease that infected 194 million people in Africa and killed 445,000 in 2016.