September 23, 2018

Research Roundup: US launches biodefense strategy, TB remains world's top infectious killer, and human trials begin for antimalarial drug

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
PATH/Wendy Stone

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The US government has launched its first national biodefense strategy to address naturally occurring threats, such as outbreaks of infectious diseases, alongside protections against bio-chemical weapons. The policy puts all aspects of US biodefense under one roof and establishes a Cabinet-level committee to coordinate activities. Provisions within the strategy also call for increased surveillance and research of potential global threats to prevent outbreaks from reaching American shores. Health security experts hope the release of this strategy will help to better prepare the United States to deal with such threats.

For the fourth year in a row, tuberculosis (TB) remains the world’s top infectious killer—killing more than 1.6 million people annually, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global TB report. The disease will receive increased political attention this week, as world leaders gather for the first-ever United Nations high-level meeting on TB. TB advocates hope the meeting will rally the global support and resources required to expedite progress. Debates between the United States and other countries regarding intellectual property had momentarily derailed negotiations on an accompanying political outcome declaration, but that is now expected to be endorsed on Thursday. The WHO TB report, which was released in advance of the meeting, also highlights a US $1.3 billion gap in funding for the research and development of new treatments to address the 3.6 million people suffering from TB who are not receiving treatment.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Duke University School of Medicine have begun enrollment for a Phase 1 trial of a new antimalarial drug, called DM1157, to test its efficacy in humans. DM1157 is a modified version of chloroquine, an antimalarial drug to which many strains of the most deadly form of malaria have grown resistant. This modified version of chloroquine interferes with the metabolism of the parasite and inhibits its ability to expel the drug. As the number of drug-resistant malaria cases grows, DM1157’s positive results during efficacy trials in animals provides hope for its efficacy in human cases.