In-depth: How a Cape Town company made an mRNA vaccine and what happens next

In January, Cape Town-based biotechnology company Afrigen Biologics announced that it has successfully produced a lab-scale batch of a mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 that is similar to that made by pharmaceutical company Moderna. Catherine Tomlinson takes an in-depth look at how Afrigen managed to reach this point and what further challenges have to be overcome before mRNA vaccines can be produced at scale in South Africa

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In-depth: New licenses could spark manufacture of COVID-19 pills in Africa

Pharmaceutical companies Merck and Pfizer recently announced early results from clinical trials showing that two new antiviral medicines are highly effective in reducing COVID-19 deaths and hospitalisation. The Medicines Patent Pool then announced licensing deals with both companies that will allow for generic versions of the two drugs to be produced. Catherine Tomlinson unpacks the licenses and asks whether generic versions of these pills might now be made in Africa.

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Experts urge registration of new child-friendly ARV formulation

Children living with HIV have to take multiple different antiretroviral pills or syrups twice a day, while most adults in South Africa have been offered one pill once a day regimens for around a decade. At the recent South African HIV Clinicians Society (SAHCS) conference, various speakers argued that better treatment regimens for kids are needed urgently. Thabo Molelekwa reports.

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In-depth: Landmark moment as AI beats humans in reading X-rays for TB

“The results are in: artificial intelligence (AI) outperforms humans at reading chest X-rays for signs of tuberculosis,” proclaimed a recent newsletter of the Stop TB Partnership. Tiyese Jeranji spoke to a variety of experts about the landmark study behind this proclamation and asked what AI-aided X-ray interpretation may mean for countries like South Africa with high TB burdens.

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COVID-19: What tests are available in SA and which ones to use?

The different types of COVID-19 tests are far from equal. Picking a test is generally a matter of speed versus accuracy and, most importantly, why you need a test and when. What are the limitations of these tests? Is there any quality control? What are the chances of false positives and false negatives? Elsabé Brits surveys the landscape of tests available in South Africa and asks which type is most appropriate in what situation.

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We need to vaccinate 90% of over-35s – Madhi

Government can avoid the overwhelming of health services and minimise death in an anticipated fourth COVID-19 wave in November/December by getting 90% of people in South Africa over 35 years old vaccinated before then. Life could then return to normal by Christmas, even with ongoing SARS-CoV-2 circulation, contends vaccinologist Professor Shabir Madhi.

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