We want to develop a vaccine
that will prevent deaths and severe illness in African children.
We must therefore evaluate our vaccines in an African setting
as soon as is appropriate. Dr. Moorthy coordinates both small
Phase I studies and larger efficacy studies at several sites
within The Gambia in West Africa.
These are conducted in collaboration with the MRC Laboratories
in The Gambia. Studies involve first healthy adults and then
healthy children aged 1-5. In this way we hope to facilitate
vaccine development for African children. A team of about
20 staff within The Gambia conduct this work. These include
field workers, nurses, medical, laboratory and computer staff.
The Gambia in West Africa
The Gambia is a small mostly rural country in many
ways typical of sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria is the biggest killer
of young children in The Gambia and Africa, killing one child
every 30 seconds in Africa. Communities are often keen to be involved
with malaria vaccine research as they appreciate the contribution
they are making to the development of a vaccine for their children.
The team is also actively engaged in an outreach programme explaining
the background and rationale for our work at both community and
national levels through community workshops, drama-based education,
high school peer educator programmes, video production and interaction
with the national media.
Field Station in the Gambia
Access to treatment with a successful malaria vaccine
is one important aspect of any development programme and we work
with funding organisations such as the Malaria Vaccine Initiative
who accept this principle. Collaboration with other malaria vaccine
research groups in Africa and the western world is also a necessary
prerequisite for success in this field. We collaborate with the
US Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and GlaxoSmithKline
in particular for both our UK and Gambian work. Field trials in
other African sites are likely to start in the near future.
Protection in The Gambia
Protection in The Gambia is assessed during the
malaria transmission season which starts in September and runs
until the end of the year. Volunteers are vaccinated before the
transmission season with either the study malaria vaccines or
rabies vaccine (the volunteers do not know which). The volunteers
are seen weekly and assessed for malaria infection. If at the
end of the malaria season there were fewer cases of malaria in
the group who received the malaria vaccines compared to the group
who received the rabies vaccine, then we know that the vaccines
are having some effect.