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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 29, 2024 by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone

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The Genomic Surveillance Unit at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation at Stellenbosch University are partnering to advance the practice of genomic surveillance, which has been around for decades but really came to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic and has the potential to improve global efforts against other infectious diseases, including malaria and cholera. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was huge global investment in genomic surveillance infrastructure, with the Stellenbosch lab being the first to confirm the discovery of the Beta and Omicron variants. In the last year alone, the work of the two labs has contributed to doubling the number of sequences available for dengue, chikungunya, and malaria parasites. Genomic surveillance uses sequencing to get data about the genetic material of a pathogen, which is then used to track how the pathogen is changing or spreading.

Researchers from the Health and Medical Research Institute at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have developed a bioluminescent assay that could serve as a rapid, low-cost, and convenient test to complement laboratory testing for COVID-19. The test uses a bioluminescent molecule found in some small crustaceans that glows when it reacts with the virus that causes COVID-19 in a saliva sample and can be used with commercially available handheld luminometers at the point-of-care. The research team is planning for initial commercialization in the Japanese and US markets.

ProteinLogic and Stellenbosch University will use a $1.35 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to determine whether an immunoassay technology being developed by ProteinLogic can be used to monitor treatment response to tuberculosis (TB) antimicrobial chemotherapy in patients. ProteinLogic's ImmiPrint testing technology is a protein-based test based on predictive models developed through machine learning that aims to offer rapid, efficient, and cost-effective discovery of diagnostic biomarkers across multiple diseases. Its new partner, Stellenbosch University, has been leading clinical trials on TB diagnostic biomarkers. In the face of the growing threat of drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, there is an urgent need for new technologies to monitor the effectiveness of current treatments, in addition to the need for novel treatments and prevention methods for TB.

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