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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 February 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 2015)

  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cabo Verde
  • Cameroon
  • Congo, Democratic Republic of the (DRC)
  • Congo, Republic of the
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia, The
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia

 

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Highlights

Young Biomedical Scientists in West Africa: 3rd West African Regional Workshop on Malaria Control and Elimination, August 12-22, 2015, Bamako, Mali

An international faculty led a two-week workshop to train graduate students and young scientists from West Africa in basic and applied research on approaches to malaria control and elimination. They provided training in susceptibility to infection, biostatistics and epidemiology, functional genomics and bioinformatics, parasite immunology and vaccines, molecular biology, research ethics, and research proposal development.

Implementing HIV and TB Diagnostics in Resource Limited Settings, September 22-23, 2014, Cape Town, South Africa

This workshop brought together experts in laboratory and clinical practice to highlight diagnostic implementation challenges and best practices. This workshop highlighted both the laboratory (e.g., quality assurance) and clinical (e.g., linkage to care) barriers for adopting and incorporating new diagnostic assays to ensure better patient outcomes. Objectives for this workshop included identifying barriers that limit the impact of new diagnostic devices and the best practices in the implementation of diagnostic technologies; developing plans and guidelines to ensure that investments in diagnostic technologies reduce morbidity/mortality as well as disease transmission; assisting country health agencies to prepare for transformative diagnostic technologies; and identifying knowledge gaps and proposed research questions that may inform future implementation of diagnostic technologies.

Scientific Advances

The Gambia Pneumococcal Vaccine Trial

The 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 March 17, 2016