News Scan for Dec 01, 2020

CARB-X funds staph, pseudomonas therapies
Initiative on antibiotic access, resistance
Vaccine for hemorrhagic fever virus

CARB-X to fund treatments for S aureus pneumonia, Pseudomonas

CARB-X today announced two new funding awards for German scientists working on therapies for difficult-to-treat bacterial infections.

The first award, worth up to $1.33 million, will go to researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and the Lead Discovery Center GmbH for development of a small molecule that inhibits the Staphylococcus aureus toxin a-hemolysin, which damages lung tissue and immune cells. The drug would be used in combination with antibiotics to treat pneumonia caused by S aureus.

"We urgently need better treatment options for patients with pneumonia caused by S. aureus," Mark Bronstrup, lead researcher and head of chemical biology at the HZI, said in a CARB-X press release. "In the long term, however, we will not achieve this by killing the pathogens with antibiotics alone. Instead, we need preventive or accompanying therapies that prevent damage to the lungs by bacterial toxins."

Bronstrup and colleagues could be eligible for an additional $7.44 million from CARB-X (the Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator) if the project meets certain milestones.

Another team of HZI researchers will receive $6.31 million from CARB-X to develop an innovative treatment for Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in cystic fibrosis patients.

Since its launch in 2016, CARB-X has awarded more than $260 million for pre-clinical development of new antibiotics, vaccines, diagnostics, and other treatments for bacterial infections. There are currently 49 active projects focused exclusively on drug-resistant bacteria in the CARB-X portfolio.
Dec 1 CARB-X press release


GARDP announces joint effort on antibiotics, diagnostics for STIs

The Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) yesterday announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to explore joint efforts that could improve sustainable access to antibiotics and protect them against the emergence of resistance.

The initial focus of the groups will be on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including drug-resistant gonorrhea, which the WHO has identified as a priority infection urgently requiring new antibiotics. Their efforts will focus on strengthening STI case management by fostering access to new tests and treatments, evaluating public health needs for new diagnostic tests and treatments for gonorrhea, assessing appropriate use and stewardship of antibiotics, and defining strategies to monitor and delay the emergence of resistance to gonorrhea treatments.

GARDP is currently working with partners to develop a new treatment for gonorrhea, while FIND is working on rapid point-of-care diagnostics for gonorrhea, including tests that detect resistance. Both efforts have been aided by the WHO.
Nov 30 GARDP press release


Vaccine protects monkeys from Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever

A DNA-based vaccine for the tickborne Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) given to cynomolgus macaques was shown to provide protection from the disease, according to a study published yesterday in Nature Microbiology.

The vaccine candidate uses two plasmids encoding the glycoprotein precursor (GP) and the nucleoprotein (NP) of CCHFV, and it was given to six female macaques at 3-week intervals in three dosages containing 1 milligram of each plasmid and followed by electroporation. Six female macaques were in the placebo group. After the vaccination period, all were infected with CCHFV; tested for symptoms and viral shedding at days 0, 3, 5, and 6 post-infection; and examined after euthanasia on day 6.

According to results of the study, which was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), none of the macaques in the intervention or control group experienced significant adverse reactions during the vaccination period. Post-infection, the placebo group displayed significant virus RNA levels in their blood, significantly elevated aspartate aminotransferase values, and reduced platelets, total protein, and albumin levels.

The only change the intervention group displayed was a significantly elevated platelet count that was still within the normal range. A post-mortuary examination of the spleen and lymph nodes showed that treated macaques had significantly reduced CCHFV burdens, with a 100-fold reduction in viral burden in all tissues compared with the control group, as well as an absence of any CCHFV antigens in the liver.

CCHFV is a tickborne virus spread through Hyalomma ticks, infected fluids and tissues of people, and certain livestock species. It affects 15,000 people and causes 500 deaths per year, most commonly across the tick's habitat in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Europe, according to the WHO. Currently, there is no specific treatment or vaccine for CCHFV. While ribavirin can be used at early symptom onset, supportive care is all that can be done for severe disease.
Nov 30 Nat Microbiol study
Nov 30 NIH press release

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