May 21, 2017

Research Roundup: Potential malaria and Ebola vaccines and the polio vaccine shortage

Program Assistant
PATH/Rocky Prajapati
Researchers at the University of Cape Town discovered a compound that blocks the cycle of malaria within the human body, regardless of its drug-resistant status. The compound acts a preventative tool as well as a treatment for those infected with malaria, as it can block transmission and prevent infection. The compound, MMV390048, began phase I clinical trials in 2014, but subsequent data has not yet been published. The drug will enter phase II clinical trials this year in Ethiopia, and it is hoped this drug will be on the market within the next ten.

The oral polio vaccine, Polioral (PATH/Amy MacIver)
With the world circling in on polio eradication, global public health professionals have run into a major obstacle that makes ridding the disease incredibly complicated: A vaccine shortage. There currently isn’t enough injectable polio vaccine for the world to use, as demand is so high. There isn’t enough of the vaccine in production for each child to receive two shots, which is what researchers suggest to protect against contracting polio. An alternative is the oral polio vaccine, but due to its heightened risk of complications, professionals believe this vaccine will soon be phased out. While polio vaccine manufacturing may be ramped up to treat children in the next few years, it is essential that health care professionals continue to vaccinate children ten years post-eradication to ensure there is no resurgence of the disease. Funders, including the Gates Foundation, are now putting efforts toward the next surge in vaccine demand, and hope to overcome this obstacle to reach global eradication of polio once and for all.

An outbreak of Ebola has been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and health researchers around the globe are working to distribute an experimental vaccine. While the outbreak is contained due to the geographic isolation of the cases, the WHO and Gavi are still working quickly toward an effective and globally approved vaccine that can be used in future outbreaks. The DRC has not requested a vaccine at this point in time, but these organizations are prepping for when the country requests it, or for if the outbreak spreads past the DRC. The vaccine is experimental, and requires special modes of transportation, yet proved incredibly successful during the Ebola outbreak of 2014.