The Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit, The Gambia, has a track record of achievements in infectious diseases research spanning the past 50 years. It focuses on the main health problems of the region, including malaria, HIV infection, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, respiratory infections, measles, hepatitis and poor nutrition. The unit has about 30 scientists and clinicians from many parts of the world with over 600 support staff, making it one of the largest employers in The Gambia. The main base is in Fajara, with field stations upcountry at Basse, Keneba, Farafenni and Walikunda.
The new generation of researchers at the Unit are part of a growing malaria research community in Africa who, with funding from the MRC and other agencies, are making a leading contribution to the understanding of: i) molecular parasitology, immunology, and pathogenesis of severe malaria ii) targets and mechanisms of naturally acquired immunity and immune regulation.
- David Conway (MalariaGEN Investigator)
- Muminatou Jallow (MalariaGEN Data Fellow)
- Kalifa Bojang (MalariaGEN Investigator)
- Giorgio Sirugo (MalariaGEN Investigator)
Sam Dunyo, Natalia Gomez-Escobar, Alfred Ngwa, Davis Nwakanma and Michael Walther have also made valuable contributions to the project.
How the team have contributed to MalariaGEN
The team at the MRC Centre have been working to recruit children with severe malaria and ethnically matched controls for Consortial Project 1. Over a 10 year period, more than 2500 cases and 4000 controls have been recruited into the study, as well as parents of more than 1000 of the cases.
A major challenge faced by the team was the recruitment of large numbers of cord blood control samples. Obtaining informed consent from mothers can be performed either antenatally or during labour. However, there are challenges with both methods. The team therefore decided to carry out a pilot study using both. With antenatal consent they found that women went back home and only 13% returned to give birth in the clinic. This made antenatal consent an impractical method for collecting large numbers of samples. Although there were initial reservations about whether women could give adequate consent during labour, the team found that the women themselves did not feel uncomfortable about it. This method was therefore used successfully as the preferred option.
Learn more about these projects by reading Muminatou Jallow's account of the challenges of collecting cord blood control samples in The Gambia. More>>