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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.

October 17, 2022 by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone

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The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s National Institute for Biomedical Research are co-leading a clinical trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of the antiviral drug, tecovirimat (TPOXX), in mitigating symptoms and preventing serious outcomes in 450 adults (including pregnant individuals) and children with monkeypox. SIGA Technologies, Inc.’s TPOXX is approved for the treatment of smallpox in the United States. The drug impedes the spread of virus in the body by preventing virus particles from exiting human cells. Trial participants will be randomly assigned to receive the oral pill or placebos twice daily for two weeks. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that a clinical trial of vaccines aimed at preventing the rare Sudan strain of Ebola could start within weeks, pending regulatory approvals from the Ugandan government. There is no vaccine for the Sudan strain, which is behind the rapidly growing outbreak in Uganda. The trial will test two vaccines in development that have shown potential to treat this strain. Details about the specific vaccine candidates were not released. While the Sudan strain is less transmissible and has had a lower fatality rate in past outbreaks, compared to the Zaire strain, the Ugandan outbreak is incredibly concerning, and vaccines are urgently needed. 

By raising public awareness of emerging diseases and the need for laboratory capacity to address them, COVID-19 has inspired several Asian countries, including India, to invest in advanced biosafety laboratories. These labs are needed for working on dangerous pathogens and live viruses like SARS-CoV2. Some researchers have expressed concerns about the high cost of maintaining these facilities due to extensive safety measures including extra security, self-closing doors, and filtered air, among others. Concerns have also arisen about the potential risk of these labs handling extremely dangerous pathogens, however new labs could also improve overall safety practices that would reduce this risk. These new labs could play an important role in supporting more vaccine research, including for endemic infectious diseases in the region, as well as improving working conditions for researchers. 

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