Malaria vaccine undergoes clinical trials in Tanzania

Staff Writers | 28 Jan 2024
East African Standard

Speaking to The EastAfrican in Dar es Salaam last week, the principal researcher for the trial, Dr John Lusingu, said the launch of the new vaccine would take place in Korogwe District.

The term MSP3-LSP stands for merozoite surface protein 3-long synthetic peptide. Similar tests were conducted successfully for healthy adults in Switzerland and Burkina Faso.

Dr Lusinga added that the two different dosages (15 and 30 microgrammes) of MSP3 are now being tested in a staggered process among child populations to further demonstrate its safety and any immediate or delayed adverse effects.

The trial is being run by a team of NIMR-Tanga researchers at the Kwashemshi Vaccination Centre in Korogwe district, said Dr Lusinga.

The study, which was approved by the Tanzania National Health Research Ethics Review Committee and the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority, involves 45 healthy, randomly selected children aged one to two years.

Dr Lusinga said the researcher has divided children into two groups comprising 23 and 22 children respectively. In the first group, 15 children are receiving a lower dose (15 microgrammes) of the test vaccine MSP3, while the remaining eight (control group) are receiving Hepatitis B vaccine.

According to Dr Lusingu, in the second group, 15 children are receiving a higher dose (30 microgrammes) of MSP3 and the remaining 7 (control group) are also receiving a Hepatitis B vaccine.

Immunisations in the two groups are staggered. In the second group, they are administered two weeks later after a thorough safety evaluation of the outcome of vaccination with the lower dose.

Each child will receive a total of three immunisations.

"Malaria accounts for 80 per cent of deaths among children below five in Tanzania.

We are very proud to be part of a process aimed at finding lasting solutions against Tanzania's biggest killer," Dr Lusinga said.

Dr Lusingu has assured the public that children will be closely monitored during the entire study period of 13 months.

The African Malaria Network Trust (Amanet) is sponsoring the study. In September last year, the Dar es Salaam based non-governmental organisation donated $50,000 to the National Institute for Medical Research for a project that will run for three years.

The Health Research Ethics (HRE) project, which the money will fund, aims at strengthening ethical practices in health research in Tanzania.

The project will also involve activities aimed at improving the ethical review committees at NIMR centres and stations.

According to Amanet managing trustee, Prof Wen Kilama, the HRE project will also enable the committees to conduct meetings regularly and review proposals using agreed standard operating procedures.

"Through this streamlining and empowerment of institutional research ethics committees, NIMR will be addressing the overall problem of a rising workload of proposals waiting to be reviewed, and at the same time ensure that the safety and wellbeing of human health research participants are protected," said Prof Kilama.

Prof Kilama added that, besides funding for this trial, Amanet has contributed extensively in capacity strengthening, trial site development and training at NIMR-Tanga.

The mechanisms mediating protection in humans were analysed by clinical experiments of passive protection in patients, and the main mechanism, which was employed to screen the ca. 5300 proteins of the malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum), identified MSP3 as the main target.