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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 22, 2024 by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone

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A recently published study, led by the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), found that three different antibodies independently protected monkeys from acquiring simian-HIV, findings that could inform the development of an HIV vaccine for people. The antibodies, one isolated from a person living with HIV and the other two from rhesus macaques, all target the fusion peptide, a site on an HIV surface protein that helps the virus fuse with and enter cells, with the results validating the fusion peptide as a potential target for a human vaccine. Hopefully, the approach will continue to show promise in future studies, although a vaccine for humans would need to be able to generate multiple varieties of antibodies directed at the fusion peptide to increase the likelihood that the vaccine could prevent the full diversity of HIV variants.

A study published last week found that simnotrelvir, a COVID-19 drug administered as a series of pills, was effective in speeding recovery from mild to moderate disease. The drug was tested primarily in young people with standard levels of risk, a change from earlier antiviral drug trials during the pandemic, which included mostly people at high risk of severe COVID-19. The researchers combined simnotrelvir with a component of Paxlovid, currently the most widely used COVID-19 pill, with strong results and the only downsides similar to those of Paxlovid: bad taste and incompatibility with some common medications. Simnotrelvir has been available in China under an emergency use authorization since early last year and has been incredibly popular due, in part, to its much lower price tag compared to Paxlovid.

Last week, the Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) announced that it is awarding $633,000 to Intravacc to develop a vaccine for gonorrhea, which is the world’s second most reported sexually transmitted infection. The new vaccine could be a game changer in curbing new cases of gonorrhea, as well as addressing the rising spread of resistance of Neisseria gonorrhoeae to the only antibiotic still effective in treating it. The funding will support the early-stage development of Intravacc’s meningococcal outer membrane vesical vaccine, which includes antigens designed to protect against infections caused by N. gonorrhoeae.

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