Selected NIAID Research Advances of 2015

December 31, 2015

As 2016 approaches, a new slideshow highlights scientific advances from the past year stemming from research supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. During fiscal year 2015, NIAID researchers and NIAID-funded scientists at domestic and international institutions drove progress toward development of vaccines and treatments for HIV, influenza and Ebola. They also made discoveries yielding new insights into food allergy prevention, autoimmune diseases and drug-resistant infections, among many other accomplishments.

The slideshow showcases 20 of the most notable advances of 2015, all of which demonstrate how public investment in biomedical research drives scientific progress and benefits human health.

  • Preventing the Development of Peanut Allergy: NIAID-funded researchers reported results from a landmark clinical trial showing that consuming peanut-containing foods in infancy can prevent the subsequent development of peanut allergy.
  • Underscoring the Importance of Early HIV Treatment: Results from a multinational NIAID-funded clinical trial conclusively demonstrated the benefits of offering immediate antiretroviral therapy to all HIV-infected people, showing that starting treatment early prevents serious AIDS-related events, serious non-AIDS-related events and death.
  • Advancing Toward a Universal Flu Vaccine: NIAID scientists developed an experimental nanoparticle vaccine incorporating an influenza virus component that varies little among different viral strains, helping advance the development of a universal flu vaccine.
  • Advancing HIV Prevention and Treatment: Scientists created a molecule called eCD4-Ig, which blocks a key area on the outer surface of HIV, potentially leading to development of new strategies to prevent or treat HIV infection.
  • Optimizing Antibiotic Treatment for Skin Infections: Researchers found that otherwise healthy people with uncomplicated skin infections acquired outside of hospitals can be treated inexpensively and successfully with either clindamycin or TMP-SMX, two antibiotics that are no longer under patent.
  • Advancing HIV Vaccine Design: An NIAID-led research team engineered a protein to maintain the specific shape of the HIV viral spike predicted to be most effective at stimulating the immune system to produce powerful anti-HIV antibodies.
  • Tracking Ebola Virus Evolution in West Africa: By comparing Ebola virus samples taken from patients at different time periods during the West Africa Ebola outbreak, NIAID researchers found that the virus was not mutating faster than expected.
  • Protecting Against a Variety of Influenza Strains: A flu vaccine cocktail developed by NIAID researchers showed promise in inducing protective immunity in mice against a wide array of influenza viruses.
  • Developing an Ebola Vaccine: Clinical testing of the investigational NIAID/GSK Ebola vaccine showed that the vaccine was safe and elicited immune responses that are likely to protect people against Ebola virus infection.
  • Analyzing and Addressing Antibiotic Resistance: Results from several NIAID-supported studies provided new insights into how antibiotic resistance develops and ways the problem can be addressed.
  • Understanding the Genetic Causes of Immune Diseases: By studying healthy people, NIAID researchers and colleagues created an open-access resource of genetic information to aid the understanding of immune-mediated diseases.
  • Understanding Immune Cell Diversity: NIAID-supported researchers proposed that weakly self-reactive immune T cells, which are abundant in the blood of healthy adults, also recognize foreign pathogens, and that their total elimination would create holes in the T cell repertoire that pathogens could exploit to cause infection.
  • Controlling HIV with Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies: Investigators found that a single infusion of an anti-HIV antibody resulted in decreased HIV levels that persisted for as long as 28 days in HIV-infected people.
  • Halting Progression of Multiple Sclerosis: Three-year results from an ongoing NIAID-supported clinical trial suggested that high-dose immunosuppressive therapy followed by transplantation of a person’s own blood-forming stem cells can induce sustained remission in some people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
  • Demonstrating the Immune-Health Benefits of Early HIV Treatment: By analyzing data from the ongoing U.S. Military HIV Natural History Study, researchers found that starting treatment within a year of seroconversion—the period shortly after HIV infection when antibodies to the virus develop and become detectable—improves the immune health of HIV-infected people.
  • Evaluating Flu Vaccine Design: NIAID-funded researchers found that antibodies against neuraminidase, an influenza protein that is not a main target of conventional flu vaccines, protected mice against flu infection, suggesting that incorporating neuraminidase into flu vaccine design may offer better protection.
  • Understanding How Anti-HIV Antibodies Mature: NIAID scientists found that the frequency and quality of immune T follicular helper (TFH) cells were linked to the development of broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV, suggesting that HIV vaccine regimens that stimulate TFH cells and boost high-quality TFH cell populations may elicit production of protective anti-HIV antibodies.
  • Developing a Vaccine Against Epstein-Barr Virus Infection: NIAID researchers and collaborators developed an experimental nanoparticle-based Epstein-Barr virus vaccine that elicited potent neutralizing antibodies in vaccinated mice and monkeys.
  • Predicting Tuberculosis Treatment Outcomes: NIAID scientists showed that two medical imaging techniques, positron emission tomography and computed tomography, potentially could be used in combination to predict the effectiveness of tuberculosis drug regimens.
  • Developing Ebola Treatments: NIAID-supported researchers reported key advances toward the development of antiviral drugs targeting Ebola.

View the entire slideshow on the NIAID website: Selected NIAID Research Advances of 2015.

Content last reviewed on December 31, 2015