Strengthening surveillance of pneumococcal infections

Dr Grant Mackenzie, Principal Investigator of the Pneumococcal Surveillance Project, has secured an 18 month funding extension to continue with surveillance of pneumococcal infections at MRC Basse Field Station worth £1 million.

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Dr Grant Mackenzie, Principal Investigator of the Pneumococcal Surveillance Project

From the middle of 2011 the ‘Pneumococcal Surveillance Project’ (PSP) in Gambia was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with disease surveillance projected to end in December 2014.

The extension of the PSP is worth £1 million and will continue until mid-2016. The aim of the project is to measure the impact of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in The Gambia.

The study will generate evidence about pneumococcal vaccine in Africa which will help countries maintain their immunisation programmes in the future when data are needed to show the impact of the vaccine to prevent pneumonia, meningitis, and septicaemia. The study is being conducted around Basse, in the rural east of The Gambia.

A long history

The MRC has conducted pneumococcal research in The Gambia for over two decades. From 1989 to 1991 a background epidemiological study in the rural Upper River Region of The Gambia established the substantial burden of invasive pneumococcal disease.

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During the 1990s the MRC conducted phase 2 trials in the region providing further evidence of the immunogenicity of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) and their effects on pneumococcal colonization.

A pivotal phase 3 trial of a nine-valent conjugate vaccine was conducted between 2000 and 2004 which showed significant efficacy against disease endpoints. Following this, and another trial in South Africa, WHO recommended that pneumococcal conjugate vaccines be used in developing countries.

The GAVI Alliance’s PneumoADIP funded two PCV impact studies which were initiated in 2007 in Kenya and Gambia. These two studies provide some of the first data in sub-Saharan Africa describing the impact of PCV.

Extending surveillance

The standard approach in African countries is to introduce pneumococcal vaccine without a catch-up campaign. The extension of the project is necessary as the pneumococcal vaccine was introduced without a catch-up campaign and the impact of the vaccine will only be evident when children immunised as infants become four to five years of age.

Dr Grant Mackenzie, Principal Investigator of the study at MRC Unit The Gambia, said: “I am pleased that we have secured extended funding. The extra year of surveillance will give us even more robust data about the routine use of pneumococcal vaccine in a setting of high child mortality.”