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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.

April 18, 2022 by Anna Kovacevich

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On Thursday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to the first COVID-19 test to detect the disease through breath. The InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer is able to identify five volatile organic compounds associated with COVID-19 infection in breath samples and delivers results in less than three minutes. In a study of 2,409 individuals both with and without symptoms, the test had a 99.3 percent specificity rate, which measures the percent of correctly identified negative test samples, and a 91.2 percent sensitivity rate, which measures the percent of correctly identified positive test samples. The breathalyzer device—about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage—will be used in mobile testing sites, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other locations where samples are both collected and analyzed.

An experimental drug halved the death rate among critically ill COVID-19 patients receiving supplemental oxygen and at high risk for serious lung disease and death, the drug’s developer announced last week. Sabizabulin, which works by disrupting the transport of the virus through microtubules in cells, is given in a capsule taken once a day and has no refrigeration requirements. A clinical trial of the drug, the results of which have not yet been published or peer reviewed, was halted early at the recommendation of independent safety monitors after the treatment was shown to drastically reduce deaths among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Developers plan to meet with the FDA later this month and will be applying for emergency use authorization for sabizabulin.

An anti-HIV strategy called vectored immunoprophylaxis—in which an adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector delivers instructions to muscle cells to pump out antibodies that block the virus—showed promising results in a phase 1 clinical trial conducted by the National Institutes of Health. The AAV therapy is able to block HIV’s ability to bind to an immune cell’s receptor that the virus targets before infecting the cell, therefore shutting down the virus’s entry. The phase 1 clinical trial enrolled eight adults with HIV who were on stable antiretroviral therapy for at least three months and found that intramuscular injection of the therapy was safe and well-tolerated. Researchers are continuing to develop this technology, which they say could have wide-ranging clinical implications for preventing or treating HIV and other infections.

About the author

Anna KovacevichGHTC

Anna Kovacevich is a senior program assistant at GHTC who supports GHTC's communications and member engagement activities.