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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 8, 2024 by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone

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Newly published research found that a new compound worked in test tubes and mice against infections caused by the carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii (CRAB) bacterium. CRAB can cause serious infections and death in critically ill hospital patients, is classed as a priority pathogen by the World Health Organization, and is resistant to many known antibiotics. The drug, zosurabalpin, was identified after screening about 45,000 small molecules with potential antibiotic properties and seems to be effective against the bacterium’s notoriously tricky structure. While research is still in early stages, the results provide hope for the potential treatment of hard-to-treat infections caused by CRAB and other bacteria.

A research team used artificial intelligence (AI) to discover a new class of antibiotics for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, better known as MRSA, which kills thousands globally every year. The researchers used deep-learning models to screen approximately 12 million commercially available compounds and then conducted lab tests for around 280 of them, eventually identifying and testing in mice two promising antibiotic candidates from the same class. The research not only points to a potential treatment for MRSA but also highlights the potential of AI in speeding up drug discovery. 

A recent study provided insight into newly identified flu-fighting antibodies that could lead to the development of broader, more durable flu vaccines. The researchers examined the curiously strong immune responses in certain individuals after they received a trivalent flu vaccine and discovered the production in some people of a specific type of antibody that targets two dominant flu strains. By reverse-engineering their immune responses, researchers hope to improve our understanding of how to produce a vaccine that could elicit antibodies against multiple strains of the flu. While this research does not take us closer to developing a truly universal flu vaccine, these insights could lead to improved vaccines that offer better, longer-lasting protection against multiple flu subtypes.

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