Malaria Vaccine Trials and Immunity
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
Follow-up visit

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.