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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.

March 18, 2024 by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone

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A new study that tested Gilead’s antiviral drug, obeldesivir, in primates given a lethal dose of the Ebola Sudan virus found that the drug may be effective in curing infections from the Sudan strain, for which there are currently no approved vaccines or treatments. The study tested a regimen of once-daily pills for ten days. If proven effective in humans and approved, it would be the first oral treatment for any subspecies of Ebola. Moreover, the drug can be stored at room temperature and is relatively inexpensive to manufacture, especially compared to the monoclonal antibodies approved for Ebola Zaire. Previous work in cell culture also showed that obeldesivir seems to work against all known species of Ebola and the related Marburg virus. Further research could confirm the drug's use as a pan-ebolavirus therapy; however, running clinical trials will prove challenging as there are long stretches between outbreaks of Ebola Sudan, in particular.

A new initiative led by Imperial College London and co-funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) aims to develop next-generation coronavirus vaccines that not only reduce disease severity but also stop viral transmission, reducing the spread of disease. The project will deliberately infect healthy human volunteers with betacoronaviruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, to test the efficacy of vaccines that are administered via nasal spray. Experts believe this method could be more effective in triggering the highly specialized mucosal immunity that can stop transmission by directly acting at the cells lining the nose, throat, and lungs—where the viruses enter the body. The human challenge trial design of the project is also unique. Imperial College London last year announced that the world’s first COVID-19 human challenge trial was safe, paving the way for broader use of this approach.

A research team has discovered an enzyme in the species of sandfly that is primarily responsible for the spread of leishmaniasis in South America that they hope will lead to the development and commercialization of targeted traps to control the insect population and reduce the spread of the disease. Leishmaniasis can be disfiguring, and the severe form, visceral leishmnasis, which mostly occurs in Brazil, can be lethal if left untreated. The researchers analyzed the genome of the Lutzomyia longipalpis, a species of sandfly native to Brazil and South America, and identified the enzyme, Terpene Synthase, which is responsible for making the pheromone used to attract mates, a discovery that could be leveraged for future control technologies.

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