Partnering to Reduce New-born infections in The Gambia

The open day recently held at the Serekunda General Hospital in Serrekunda was exciting opportunity to engage and sensitise the Serekunda community about the two new projects NeoInnate and EPIC HIPC which are set to commence soon.

The event was attended by several dignitaries, including Mr Lamin Marong, Deputy Director of Nursing Services who represented the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Alagie Manneh, representing the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Serekunda General Hospital, representatives from WHO, staff from MRCG, staff from the Serekunda General Hospital as well as Alkalos, religious leaders and people from the surrounding communities. With the theme “Partnering to reduce Newborn infections”, participants were entertained with a drama from the local Kanyeleng group and speeches from the honoured guests.

On the behalf of the CEO of Serekunda General Hospital, Alagie Manneh, thanked MRCG for coming up with this laudable project, noting that their doors are always open for partnership and emphasised their support in implementing this important project.

Speakers during the event

Speakers during the event

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Mr Lamin Marong, Deputy Director of Nursing Services, expressed heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to MRC Unit The Gambia in their endeavour to reach out to the community in Serrekunda. He explained that “Malnutrition is a major cause of immune deficiency leading to greater frequency and severity of common infections”. He added that “primary malnutrition is common among children of all socio-economic levels due to poverty, lack of education, food allergies, inappropriate or limited diet and eating disorders”

Mr Marong assured the MRCG that the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare through the Regional Health Directorate would engage health workers in sensitising the MRCG health activities with Serrekunda to create more awareness.

Giving his remarks, Prof Umberto D’Alessandro, Unit Director, explained that, “little is currently known about iron homoeostasis during the first week of life and even less is known about the comparisons of nutritional immunity between full term, preterm and low birth weight neonates. The NeoInnate study will, therefore, look into how iron is regulated in the body of the newborn.” He further added that “in an effort to study neonatal nutritional immunity and its role in neonatal susceptibility to infection, MRCG will conduct an observational study in 450 Gambian full term, preterm and low birth weight vaginally delivered neonates born at Serekunda General Hospital.” He also highlighted that in the fight against the infectious disease it is crucial to understand better the way the newborns immune system functions. The EPIC-HIPC study will be using novel methods to study this and will provide useful information that may help us to better protect this vulnerable group using vaccines.

Participants during the event

Participants during the event

Giving his statement, Prof Andrew Prentice, Head of the Nutrition theme said, “This study is part of a wider portfolio of research trying to improve the health and wellbeing of young babies and the general population of the people of The Gambia”. He added, “how we feed our young women and mothers and how we feed our young men and fathers is crucial to the health of the babies that will emerge and will grow with long life”.

Speaking at the event, Dr Carla Cerami, Principal investigator of the NeoInnate study, gave an overview of the NeoInnate project which, she said, seeks to assess how iron is regulated in the body of the newborn. Dr Olubukola Idoko also gave an overview of the EPIC HIPC project. She explained that the projects seek to determine how the immune system of the newborn is regulated and what it means for vaccination.  She stated that the knowledge gained from the study could help inform the development of the next generation of vaccines better suited for use in very young children.