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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 15, 2024 by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone

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As the dengue outbreak in Latin America has continued to grow and the threat of dengue continues to rise globally due to climate change, better and cheaper vaccines are on the horizon but are unlikely to be available soon enough to address the current crises. Currently approved vaccines for dengue include one expensive two-shot regimen and one that can only be given to people who have already been infected. A new, single-dose vaccine designed to target all four strains of the dengue virus, which was created by the US National Institutes of Health and licensed for development by the Brazilian Instituto Butantan, provided strong protection in a Phase 3 trial. The institute plans to submit the vaccine to Brazil’s regulatory agency for approval within the next few months, and if approved, the institute could start producing tens of million doses next year. Merck also licensed the vaccine technology and is developing a related vaccine for the rest of the world but has yet to test it in a clinical trial. In the meantime, the Brazilian government bought global supply of Takeda’s Qdenga vaccine, which, at a steep per-dose price, will provide some protection during the current outbreak. Takeda’s vaccine has also been licensed to an Indian generic drugmaker, but a slow start-up process means that is unlikely to be available before 2030.

Pfizer recently announced that its RSV vaccine demonstrated the potential to protect adults between 18 and 50 at high risk of severe illness in a late-stage clinical trial, offering the promise of a tool to protect a far broader population against the virus that not only causes thousands of hospitalizations and deaths among older Americans and hundreds among infants every year but also can also cause severe illness in younger adults with weakened immune systems or underlying chronic conditions. Abrysvo is currently approved in the United States and elsewhere for adults 60 and older and expectant mothers. Pfizer announced plans to submit the final results from the trial for expanded approval of Abrysvo, although a timeline for submission has not yet been disclosed. Last fall, GSK released late-stage trial data demonstrating that its RSV vaccine could protect adults between 50 and 59 years old, and the US Food and Drug Administration is expected to make its decision on that vaccine in June.

A research team from the Centre for Clinical Microbiology at University College London has developed a new method for testing tuberculosis (TB) that would allow lower-resourced laboratories in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to process samples safely, with the method primarily aimed at use for monitoring drug treatment response and clinical trials. The World Health Organization recommends monthly treatment monitoring with sputum culture to ensure patients are adhering to treatment to reduce the emergence of multidrug- or rifampicin-resistant TB, but monitoring with culture is often unavailable or incredibly slow in LMICs. The new method cuts out the need for a culture; uses common instrumentation available in most laboratories, even in LMICS; does not have high energy requirements; and takes only three or four hours to return a result. The method is already being used in clinical studies.

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