Malaria remains an important public health problem and an impediment to social and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya malaria is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality and 80 percent of the population is at risk. Nationally, malaria is responsible for 30 percent outpatient consultations, 19 percent hospital admissions and 3-5 percent of inpatient deaths. However, due to the heterogeneous nature of malaria distribution in the country, the burden is much higher in some areas such as western Kenya. In these areas, malaria transmission is high and perennial and is the cause of 65 percent sick visits to hospitals, 70 percent hospital admissions and 20 percent deaths.
The Kenyan Government and international partners consider investment in malaria control a high priority if the country is to achieve its long-term development plan, vision 2030. Therefore, the malaria endemic area of in western Kenya represents an ideal area to conduct research with an overall aim of reducing the high malaria burden.
Through a collaboration involving the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), we are conducting critical research studies aimed at generating data that is to malaria control progammes in formulation of evidence-based malaria prevention and control policies.
For the past 35 years, the collaboration has conducted research that informed national and international policy including; use of Sulfonamides-Methamphetamine (SP) as Intermittent Preventive Therapy for malaria prevention during pregnancy (IPTp), efficacy of Insecticide-Treated bed nets (ITNs), documenting the increase in parasite resistance that informed the switch from chloroquine and SP to Artemis-based combination therapies (ACTs) as first-line drugs and the use of low-dose folic acid during pregnancy.
This collaboration has led to the development of excellent Good Clinical Practice (GCP)-compliant field and laboratory infrastructure consisting of state-of-the-art laboratories with the equipment and facilities to support epidemiological studies, clinical trials and conduct basic research at satellite laboratories located at Siaya County Referral Hospital and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital, the largest hospital in western Kenya. Over the years, the collaboration has also built capacity through training and mentoring of Kenyan scientists to MSc and PhD level, resulting in a pool of well-trained multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists, clinicians, scientists, laboratory technologists, behavioral scientists and community health workers with expertise and experience in conducting large-scale population-based studies including phase 3 vaccine efficacy trials. Our scientists are members of key technical working groups (TWGs) of the Kenya’s Ministry of Health NMCP where they provide technical support in translation of research into policy and practice.