Anna Kovacevich is a senior program assistant at GHTC who supports GHTC's communications and member engagement activities.
Research Roundup: New PEPFAR leadership, shorter TB regimens, and novel COVID-19 vaccine platforms
In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.
On Thursday, the US Senate confirmed Dr. John Nkengasong as US global AIDS coordinator to head the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. Dr. Nkengasong, a Cameroonian virologist who currently serves as director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the first person born on the African continent to take on the global AIDS coordinator role. President Joe Biden nominated him for the position last September, following a gap in permanent leadership since Dr. Deborah Birx departed in 2020. Prior to his position at Africa CDC, Dr. Nkengasong worked at PEPFAR on strengthening laboratory capacity across Africa. Africa CDC Deputy Director Dr. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma will head the agency in the interim while the African Union Commission selects a new director.
The World Health Organization (WHO) last week released a rapid communication stating that patients 15 and older with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) or rifampicin-resistant TB can take a six-month, all-oral treatment regimen—comprising the drugs bedaquiline, pretomanid, linezolid, and moxifloxacin (BPaLM)—instead of a regimen lasting nine months or longer. The guidance also indicates that patients with multidrug-resistant TB or rifampicin-resistant TB who have developed resistance to fluoroquinolones can subscribe to the same six-month treatment regimen, but without moxifloxacin—known as BPaL. WHO has previously recommended the BPaL and BPaLM treatment regimens, but only under operational research conditions; the new recommendation will allow programmatic implementation of treating almost all forms of drug-resistant TB with either of the shorter regimens.
Two novel COVID-19 vaccine platforms—a plant-based coronavirus-like particle vaccine and a receptor-binding domain (RBD)–dimer-based vaccine—showed promising results, according to studies published last week based on phase 3 clinical trials. The two-dose, plant-based particle vaccine, developed by Medicago and GlaxoSmithKline, showed 69.5 percent efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 caused by five variants identified in sequencing, and no severe cases or deaths were recorded. The RBD-dimer-based vaccine, developed by Anhui Zhifei Longcom, is a three-dose shot that showed 75.7 percent efficacy against infection and 87.6 percent efficacy against severe to critical disease. Neither vaccine requires extreme cold chain storage, which makes them appealing candidates for global COVID-19 vaccination efforts.