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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.

May 28, 2024 by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone

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In a new study, researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine and partner institutions found that a novel, nonhormonal sperm-specific approach showed promise in mice as a reversible male contraception option. The researchers identified a small molecule that would inhibit a key protein, STK33, required for fertility in both mice and human males and generated modified versions of STK33 inhibitors to make them more stable, potent, and selective, eventually testing the most effective compound they generated in mice. The researchers hope to further evaluate the inhibitor and similar compounds to determine effectiveness as a potential contraception option. There has been research into a variety of different strategies for male contraception, but there are currently no approved options for men beyond male condoms.

Tens of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes have been released in Djibouti to stop the spread of Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes that transmit malaria as part of the pilot phase of a partnership between Oxitec, the government of Djibouti, and Association Mutualis. The modified mosquitoes carry a gene that kills female offspring, the only mosquitoes that bite and transmit malaria, before they can reach maturity. If successful, the modified mosquitoes will be tested in larger field trials, and operational deployment will continue through next year, hopefully boosting malaria control efforts. This partnership is the first time that modified mosquitoes have been released in East Africa and the second time on the African continent, although similar technology has been successfully used in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Panama, and India, with more than one million modified mosquitoes released around the world since 2019.

The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response at the US Department of Health and Human Services is moving forward with a plan to produce 4.8 million doses of H5N1 avian flu vaccine, as the current outbreak's second human case in the United States was identified this week. The two vaccine candidates are currently in bulk form, with one of the two candidate vaccine viruses reportedly well-matched to the currently circulating strain. Health officials have identified a manufacturing line at one of its manufacturing partners for fill-and-finish, which will take a couple of months to complete. Agency officials are also coordinating with mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna about their potential involvement in vaccine development. There are additional ongoing interagency discussions about what would trigger vaccine deployment, including a change in transmission propensity, like human-to-human or animal-to-human spread; any sign of increased illness severity; a change in the complexion of the cases, like a human infection with no tie to the affected dairy farms; or the identification of a mutation in the virus.

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