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Welcome back to the Infectious Disease Curator!

Isn't it great to end the week on a truly positive note? If you haven't already heard the great news, the World Health Organization has approved the first ever malaria vaccine!

Just 48 hours ago, the WHO announced it is “recommending widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission."

Targeting the most deadly malaria parasite, the vaccine (used on top of existing efforts) could save tens of thousands of lives per year. The WHO has recommended that RTS,S/AS01 should be administered in a four-dose regimen in children from five months of age.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, noted, “We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine and now, for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use. Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease, and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults."

Where to go from here? The global health community will need to make funding decisions while countries decide whether to adopt RTS,S/AS01 into their national malaria control strategies.

Until next week,

Liv Gaskill, The Curator

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Essential Reading

Big breakthrough. Merck has announced that its investigational oral antiviral treatment, molnupiravir, significantly reduces risk of hospitalization or death by 50 percent in at-risk, non-hospitalized adult patients with mild to moderate COVID-19. The company plans to apply for FDA Emergency Use Authorization as soon as possible.

Half-year half-life. A study into the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has found that two doses are 90 percent effective against hospitalization for at least six months, even with the introduction of the delta variant. Vaccine effectiveness significantly declines after six months, but the authors note this is likely due to waning immunity, rather than delta escape.

Unexpected findings. An 11-year longitudinal study of 4,189 Nicaraguan children has found that antibody responses from natural infection with Dengue and Zika virus remain unexpectedly stable over time. After secondary infection, these cross-reactive antibodies waned slowly. The results could change understanding of immunity to Dengue and Zika virus and inform future studies of vaccine efficacy.

Plague paranoia? Dynavax Technologies Corporation and the US Department of Defense (DoD) have announced a partnership to develop a recombinant plague vaccine adjuvanted with CpG 1018. With the looming threat of bioterrorism, the DoD wants to ensure US soldiers can fight and win any war in the chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) battlespace.

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