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

January 16, 2024 by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone

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There is new hope that yaws, a chronic, disfiguring childhood disease, could be eradicated by 2030 with a renewed focus and hopefully, some new tools, especially given the emergence of resistance in the last few years to azithromycin, which has been used as an alternative to penicillin for yaws treatment since 2012. Despite the need for new tools to address the remaining burden of the disease, there are disappointingly few in the pipeline. There is one drug, linezolid, being evaluated that, like azithromycin, is easy to transport and administer, as well as an updated mass community treatment approach with azithromycin. Although the bacteria that causes yaws is tricky to target with a vaccine, ongoing research on a syphilis vaccine that targets the same bacteria that causes yaws could offer cross-protection. With underreported cases also a barrier to eradication, new, robust tests are also a major gap in the tools in our arsenal. 

The first human trial of a new vaccine against the deadly Nipah virus began last week after the work, which started in 2017, was paused during the COVID-19 pandemic. South Asia faces the greatest burden of Nipah virus, the priority pandemic pathogen that can be fatal in up to 75 percent of cases. There are currently no treatments or vaccines available against Nipah. The new vaccine, ChAdOx1 NipahB, which was developed using the same viral vector vaccine technology as the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, will be evaluated over the next 18 months in a trial led by the Oxford Vaccine Group and funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). 

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently prequalified the novel oral poliovirus vaccine type 2 (nOPV2), the first prequalification of a vaccine being used under WHO's emergency use listing. nOPV2 was developed by an international consortium, which included GHTC members: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and PATH, and is as safe and effective as its predecessor, the oral polio vaccine, but more genetically stable, meaning it is much less likely to lead to vaccine-derived outbreaks. Nearly 1 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered across 35 countries since the rollout began in March 2021, and it has already played a key role in addressing outbreaks of type 2 variant poliovirus. WHO's decision now paves the way for even more countries to receive the vaccine.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation, the nonprofit holding of Novo Nordisk and Novozymes, has announced a new grant of $25 million to the Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X). With this grant, the Novo Nordisk Foundation joins major governments and foundations in supporting the work of CARB-X to accelerate the early-stage development of innovative tools to prevent, diagnose, and treat drug-resistant bacterial infections. Efforts are focused on the most dangerous bacteria, which have been prioritized by the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the syndromes with the greatest morbidity and mortality across the world, and the performance characteristics that clinicians and patients need the most. Since 2016, CARB-X has funded 93 projects in 12 countries, with 19 projects having advanced into or completed clinical trials; 12 actively in clinical development, including late-stage clinical trials; and two diagnostic products on the market.  

About the author

Hannah Sachs-WetstoneGHTC

Hannah supports advocacy and communications activities and member coordination for GHTC. Her role includes developing and disseminating digital communications, tracking member and policy news, engaging coalition members, and organizing meetings and events.Prior to joining GHTC, more about this author