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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.

June 6, 2022 by Anna Kovacevich

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COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy appears to decrease newborns’ risk of infection with the virus, according to study results published Wednesday. The study, conducted in Norway, tracked 9,739 babies whose mothers received a second or third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna while pregnant and 11,904 babies whose mothers were not vaccinated before or during pregnancy. COVID-19 infection was rare overall among the newborns, but risk of a positive PCR test during the first four months of life was 71 percent lower when the delta variant was dominant and 33 percent lower when omicron was dominant in babies whose mothers were vaccinated during pregnancy compared to babies whose mothers were unvaccinated. The findings could be in part a result of antibodies acquired from breastfeeding, according to a lead researcher, or due to vaccinated mothers being less likely to get COVID-19 and infect their infants.

A team of researchers based at the University of Melbourne has discovered a new compound that could offer effective treatment against drug-resistant malaria. The compound, ML901, inhibits the malaria parasite by attacking the protein synthesis machinery from the inside and causing it to self-destruct, effectively making the parasite the agent of its own demise. During studies in both human blood cultures and an animal model, ML901 was able to kill malaria parasites that resisted currently used drugs and showed rapid and prolonged action. Based on the findings, the research team is now prepared to pursue the development of new antimalarial drug candidates.

Individuals with HIV were able to achieve a lengthy period of virus suppression without antiretroviral therapy (ART) after receiving infusions of two broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs), according to research conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and partners. The research, published in Nature last week, indicates combination bNAb therapy can be highly effective in suppressing HIV in the absence of ART for extended periods, provided that antibody-resistant virus is not already present when individuals begin treatment. The authors suggest that infrequent infusions of combination bNAbs could offer a future alternative to daily ART for people living with HIV, though larger studies are needed to confirm the findings.

About the author

Anna KovacevichGHTC

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