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NIAID Research in Sub-Saharan Africa

The sub-Saharan Africa region faces an array of health challenges that are corrosive to economic development and regional stability.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria claim approximately 3 million lives in the region each year. Parasitic diseases, such as hookworm and schistosomiasis, also are prevalent, mostly among children, and cause hundreds of thousands of deaths and widespread suffering.

NIAID is at the forefront of research efforts to address the high disease burden in Africa and has had many notable successes in the region. For example, NIAID-supported trials in Africa showed that two doses of nevirapine, administered to mothers at childbirth and then to their infants soon after birth, reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV. More recently, clinical trials demonstrated that medically supervised circumcision of adult African men reduces their risk of acquiring HIV via heterosexual intercourse. A clinical trial in The Gambia showed that a pneumococcal vaccine substantially reduces pneumonia deaths among children. In 2014 NIAID-funded researchers identified a potential vaccine candidate for malaria in children.

NIAID-supported research collaborations in this region include an International Center for Excellence in Research (ICER) in Mali. The Mali ICER hosts researchers from NIAID intramural and extramural divisions.

In partnership with the Liberian government, NIAID launched a clinical trial on Feb. 27, 2015, to obtain safety and efficacy data on the investigational drug ZMapp as a treatment for Ebola virus disease. The study, which will be conducted in Liberia and the United States, is a randomized controlled trial enrolling adults and children with known Ebola virus infection.

Countries With NIAID-Funded Activities (Fiscal Year 2014)

  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Congo, Democratic Republic of the (DRC)
  • Congo, Republic of the
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon


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Scientific Advances

The Gambia Pneumococcal Vaccine Trial

WHO estimates that more than 1.6 million people—including more than 800,000 children under age five—die every year from pneumococcal infections. The Gambia Pneumococcal Vaccine Trial, funded in part by NIAID, was the first major randomized, controlled vaccine clinical trial in nearly 20 years to show a statistically significant reduction in overall child mortality. Findings indicate that vaccinating infants against Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria could substantially reduce death and illness among children in developing countries, including in rural areas with limited access to public health systems. Learn more.

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Last Updated May 06, 2015