Malawi has made history after launching the first ever typhoid vaccine clinical trial in Africa on Wednesday.
According to the World Health Organisation, typhoid fever is a systemic infection caused by Salmonella Typhi, usually through ingestion of contaminated food or water. It occurs predominantly due to poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water.
Samonella Typhi causes fever, abdominal pain and, in severe cases, jaundice and bleeding or perforation of the bowel.
“I have worked in Malawi on typhoid issues for quite a long time and I have seen that typhoid fever is a major public health issue especially among young children.
“To make it worse, it’s been noted that Malawi and other African countries have developed a type of the disease that is resistant to antibiotics,” said Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust’s (MLW) Research Group Leader in Salmonella, Melita Gordon.
MLW indicates that the goal of the trial is to assess the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of a new Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine in African children.
Gordon highlighted that, in Blantyre alone, 100 per every 100,000 children have typhoid fever every year and the organisers said this is why Blantyre – particularly Ndirande and Zingwangwa townships– were chosen to participate in the vaccine trial.
“We were working on how serious the disease is, in terms of age group. The children who will receive this vaccine will be [monitored] for up to three years,” Gordon said.
Blantyre Urban District Education Manager, Evelyn Mjima, acknowledged that typhoid is one of the contributing factors to school absenteeism in the city’s schools.
Father of the first child (four-year-old Golden) to receive the trial vaccine, Christopher Kondowe, said he is excited that his child is part of the trial that will help Malawian and international policymakers in their decision-making.
MLW records indicate that 24,000 children aged between nine months and 12 years will be enrolled as part of the Typhoid Acceleration Consortium study, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
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