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STUDY: Ifakara conducts first malaria blood stage challenge in Africa

Aug. 19, 2022
STUDY:  Ifakara conducts first malaria blood stage challenge in Africa
The Ifakara team which took part in the first ever malaria blood stage challenge study in Africa poses for a group photo. This was on July 27th 2022 at Kingani area in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. PHOTOS | IFAKARA/Communications

Ifakara Health Institute clinical trialists based in Bagamoyo, Tanzania have successfully conducted the first malaria blood stage challenge in Africa to establish this capacity in the Institute, Head of the Interventions & Clinical Trials at Ifakara, Dr. Ally Olotu, reports.

Describing it as “a significant achievement,” Dr. Olotu also reports that similar challenges to the one held on July 27th 2022 at Kingani area in Bagamoyo were successfully conducted some years back where Ifakara was also part of the first sporozoite malaria challenge in the African continent.

“The blood-stage challenge, unlike sporozoite challenge, provides an opportunity to study the early efficacy of blood-stage malaria vaccine candidates. This can be used to cost-effectively screen potentially useful vaccines and malaria drugs and select the candidates that can further undergo phase II and III evaluation,” he clarifies.

According to this seasoned trialists, the platform can also be used to understand the immunity to blood-stage and sexual stages of malaria and could be further expanded to evaluate malaria transmission blocking interventions.

Dr. Olotu further says: “The platform can investigate the utility of both modern and traditional medicines that are believed to have antimalarial activities.”

Empowerment
The funding of this project came from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) through a Multi-stage Malaria Vaccine Consortium. The capacity building and technology transfer was supported and implemented by the University of Oxford.

Ifakara scientists received the training to formulate the challenge inoculum and are expected to perform this procedure in the subsequent challenge studies expected to take place next year.

In the current challenge study, 12 healthy adults participate and will be observed closely at the Ifakara’s state-of-the-art Clinical Trials Facility based at Kingani in Bagamoyo, Coast Region, for up to 28 days. So far, all 12 participants remain healthy and without any complications.

Past & future
Previously, Ifakara safely used sporozoite malaria challenge studies to evaluate the efficacy of a whole sporozoite malaria vaccine manufactured by a US-based company called Sanaria. Next year, Ifakara plans to use the platform to evaluate the efficacy of a new blood-stage malaria vaccine in healthy adults in Bagamoyo, Tanzania.

Commenting on the latest developments, the Director of Science at Ifakara, Dr. Fredros Okumu, says “Ifakara Health Institute is now in the extraordinary league of the only institution that has been part of the testing of all major malaria vaccine candidates, starting with the SPf66 in the 90s, through to RTSS, PfSPZ, and now this one explained by Dr. Ally Olotu.”