BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

October 22, 2017

Research Roundup: TB diagnostic innovations, help for sleeping sickness, and an AMR tracking project

Program Assistant
GHTC
PATH/Gabe Bienczycki

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

Researchers at the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health highlighted three promising innovations that have the potential to modernize the tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic and treatment landscape. The first innovation builds upon the current therapy monitoring protocol, which involves directly observing patients to ensure they take their medicines, in a novel and contemporary way. The new system, Remote Observation Therapy (ROT), uses an edible sensor and a wearable patch to remotely track whether patients are taking their TB medicine and assist public health professionals with treatment monitoring to ensure that patients continue and complete TB therapies. The second is an oral swab alternative to sputum tests. Current sputum tests are difficult to collect and pose various problems for patients who need to produce the sample. Instead, a simple cheek swab has delivered promising results, though the swab will still require analysis from a GeneXpert or a similar machine. Lastly, a new, rapid prototype blood test, which can detect TB in as few as 15 minutes and requires no electricity and limited medical training, is showing promise. This diagnostic tool would address a major gap in blood-based TB diagnostics.

A new, oral therapy has shown promising results in clinical trials for curing sleeping sickness, a debilitating disease that affects the neurological system.. The oral drug—fexindazole—cured 91 percent of patients with severe sleeping sickness and 99 percent of patients in the early stages of the disease. Fexindazole is a much-needed alternative to current combination therapies that involve a mix of pills and intravenous infusions, which can be challenging to administer in low-resource settings where infrastructure and highly trained health workers may be limited.

Wellcome Trust, with assistance from the UK government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has announced the Global Burden of Disease Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) project , a new research initiative to track global data on drug-resistant infections and deaths. Over four years, the project will compile relevant data, produce detailed maps for intervention and clinical purposes, and provide publicly available visual representations on AMR’s global burden. This project will allow governments and researchers to strategically target global efforts to combat AMR.

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