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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.

July 6, 2021 by Anna Kovacevich

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University of Cambridge scientists have identified 200 existing drugs as possible candidates to repurpose against COVID-19 and validated two of them in early tests—the antimalarial therapy proguanil and rheumatoid arthritis medication sulfasalazine. In the study, both drugs safely inhibited the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in monkey and human cell lines. Both are well established and well tolerated for other human diseases and will likely be rapidly advanced into clinical trials to test whether they can prevent or treat COVID-19. The Cambridge research, which mapped a network of human proteins induced by SARS-CoV-2 infection, identified 476 key proteins most relevant in viral replication and screened approved drugs against those proteins, finding 200 drugs, 40 of which are already in COVID-19 clinical trials and another 30 of which have previously been proposed as potential candidates against the disease.

A malaria vaccine candidate that pairs a shot of the live parasite that causes the disease with a dose of infection-fighting drugs showed promise in early clinical trials, researchers reported in Nature last week. The live parasite vaccine and drug combination showed 87.5 percent efficacy in a small group of healthy adult participants. The study, conducted at the National Institutes of Health, gave 44 healthy people in the United States three intravenous doses of the vaccine spaced about a month apart, followed by one of two antimalarial drugs—pyrimethamine or chloroquine—two or three days after the shot to weaken and eliminate the parasite. A phase 2 clinical trial of the vaccine is now underway in Mali, a malaria-endemic country.

The CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine appears to be safe and induce an antibody response among children and adolescents ages 3 to 17, according to phase 1/2 clinical trial data. The vaccine, manufactured by Sinovac, has recently been approved for emergency use in China for children over the age of 3. The trial results evaluated the vaccine among healthy children and adolescents in Zanhuang County, China, finding 96 percent of participants who received two doses of the vaccine developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Most adverse reactions were mild or moderate, with pain at the injection site the most commonly reported symptom. Researchers noted that the number of participants was small and concentrated and recognized a need for larger studies in other regions, as well as for data evaluating long-term safety and immune responses.

About the author

Anna KovacevichGHTC

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