BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

May 28, 2019

Research Roundup: WHO Foundation, Algeria and Argentina declared malaria free, and scientists break away from 'cold chain' to deliver vaccines

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
GHTC
PATH/Georgina Goodwin

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World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced at the 72nd World Health Assembly that a WHO Foundation would be set up later this year. The foundation, which was first mentioned at the 144th Executive Board Meeting in January, aims to broaden the organization’s donor base and “enable us to generate funding from previously untapped sources,” said Dr. Tedros. Details about the proposed foundation’s structure, governance, operating model, and legal status are still being hashed out. According to WHO officials, the foundation would be totally independent of WHO—no longer requiring the approval of the World Health Assembly—but could potentially be linked by contract to WHO to help fundraise for the organization from the general public and high net worth individuals. WHO aims to raise US$14.1 billion between 2019-2023 to deliver on its triple-billion targets.

On Wednesday, WHO officially declared Algeria and Argentina free of malaria. Algeria, the country where malaria was first discovered, is now the third African country—following Mauritius in 1973 and Morocco in 2010—to eliminate the disease, which kills more than 400,000 people annually. Argentina is the second country in the Americas, after Paraguay, in 45 years to eliminate the disease. Despite WHO declaring 38 countries malaria-free since 1955, progress against the disease has stalled as malaria-carrying mosquitoes have become resistant to certain drugs used to treat the disease and insecticides used in bednets that protect people from being bitten while sleeping.

Researchers at McMaster University have developed an affordable, durable method of transporting temperature-sensitive vaccines to low-resource settings that is inspired by breath strips. The solution: mixing dried vaccines with two sugar powders used to create the dissolvable film structure of breath strips. By using this technique, vaccines can stay stable at temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius for up to three months. This approach circumvents the need to maintain a “cold chain” during transport from supplier to patient—a task which poses logistical and financial challenges in the hot climates of developing countries where infectious disease threats are endemic. Water or saline can be added to dissolve the sugary combination, and the same reconstituted liquid can be used for injections or nasal sprays. The researchers have tested the approach in lab experiments, but not people, and are pursuing funding to refine and deploy the technology.

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