and Social Welfare minister Saffie Lowe-Ceesay last Friday presided over the
inauguration of a 1.8 million dalasi study facility at Serrekunda General
Hospital. Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia (MRCG) funded the
construction of the facility.
The facility will be used to conduct studies for the Expanded Programme on Immunization Consortium, Human Immunology Project Consortium (EPIC-HIPC).
Minister Lowe-Ceesay said the Human Immunology Project Consortium – HIPC- study will apply methods of metabolomics, transcriptomics and proteomics to understand the newborns immune development over the first week of life with or without Expanded Programme on Immunization –EPI- vaccination.
Officials say the project will recruit 720 full term infants born at Serrekunda General Hospital and Banjulinding Health Center.
She thanked MRCG and expressed the hope that the facility will bring innumerable benefits to both institutions and cement the MRC and Gambia Government relationship.
Chief executive officer of Serrekunda General Hospital Kebba Manneh said the facility would provide the enabling environment where the hospital staff can conduct studies and enhance their performance.
According to him, studies, findings and examinations that would be conducted in the facility would be useful to the health ministry for better health outcome.
Prof. Beate Kampmann, MRC team leader on vaccines and immunity said newborns are more likely to be affected by infections than any other group, adding that the EPIC-HPIC study is enrolling a well-defined cohort of newborns, infants and adults to enable characterisation of age-specific immune responses using systems vaccinology that correlate with vaccine immunogenicity, including clarifying the impact of Maternal Antibody (MatAb).
Dr. Olubukola Idoko added that more than one-third of fewer than 5 deaths occur in the neonatal period, saying of the 4 million neonatal deaths each year, one-third are due to severe infection. “That is over 1.3 newborn deaths every year and the majority burden of this remain in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
She said vaccines are currently the most effective intervention against infections but few are given right after birth because ‘we’ have limited understanding of immunity in newborn babies.
“Our approach is to enroll a cohort of 720 Gambians to assess their OMIC profile in the lab and relate the early signatures to subsequent responses to immunisation with hepatitis B (HBV) in the presence and absence of BCG vaccination,” she stated.
Prof Ofer Levy from EPIC Consortium also said the facility will not be possible without the support of the Health Ministry and local communities.