August 19, 2019

Research Roundup: The first chlamydia vaccine passed a major test, a new drug approved for drug-resistant tuberculosis, and two new Ebola treatments prove highly effective in the DRC

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
PATH/Matthew Dakin

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The first vaccine against chlamydia—one of the most common sexually transmitted infections—has proven to be safe and effective in a phase 1 clinical trial. The trial tested two different versions of the vaccine and though both elicited an immune response, one performed better than the other. Further testing will proceed with that version. Due to the complexity of the bacterium, researchers posit that a successful vaccine must provoke a strong immune response both with antibodies to fight bacteria outside of the cells, and immune system protein and cells to help clear the bacteria from infected cells. Approximately 131 million people are infected with chlamydia each year. If left untreated, it can cause chronic pelvic pain and infertility in women.

Last Wednesday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new drug, pretomanid, for treatment of highly drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB). Pretomanid, developed by TB Alliance, was approved as part of a three-drug, six-month, all-oral regimen, which also includes bedaquiline and linezolid—collectively known as BPaL. In a clinical trial, 95 out of 107 patients had a successful outcome after six months of treatment with the regimen. The historical treatment success rate is 34 percent. Pretomanid is only the third FDA-approved anti-TB drug in more than 40 years, though TB remains the world’s number one infectious disease killer.

In what is being hailed as a landmark announcement, two antibody-based therapies have proven to dramatically improve the survival rate of people newly infected with Ebola in a clinical trial conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)—raising hope that the yearlong epidemic in the DRC and future outbreaks of the virus can be more easily contained. The two treatments, REGN-EB3, developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and mAb114, developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, were among four therapies tested as part of a clinical trial that began in November. These two treatments will now be offered to all patients, with experts recommending that the other two therapies involved in the clinical trial be stopped. The yearlong Ebola outbreak in the DRC, which was declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization last month, has infected 2,800 people and killed more than 1,800 people.