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From the 27th of March to the 21st of April, Dr Eve Nakabembe came to visit the Vaccinology Team at St George’s University of London. Dr Eve is a Clinical Research Fellow from Uganda, who works on the WoMANPOWER trial being run by our team. Below is an action shot of her arriving in the lab, followed by a series of interview questions asked by Lauren, the SGUL Communications & Engagement Officer!

1. What is your research/medical background? 

I am a medical doctor -an obstetrician/gynaecologist specialising in Maternal Fetal Medicine/ High risk Obstetrics.  

My clinical research focus is in Randomized Clinical Trials on Maternal Vaccine Safety and Immunogenicity. 

2. Which project(s) are you working on at the CNPI? 

I am the principal investigator for the WoMANPOWER project- exploring the safety and immunogenicity of Pertussis vaccine (Tdap) given to pregnant women living with HIV in comparison to the HIV negative women.  

3. Which CNPI team members do you collaborate/work with during your project(s)? 

 Lead collaborator is Prof Kirsty Le Doare, Professor of Vaccinology and Immunology St George’s University of London 

Prof Manish Sadarangani-Director Vaccine Evaluation Centre, University of British Columbia, Canada 

 4. What are the aims/outcomes of your project(s)? 

  • Safety of Tdap vaccine in pregnant Women living with HIV compared to the HIV negative 
  • Immunogenicity -Anti-PT, Anti-FHA and Anti-PRN antibody responses following Tdap vaccination. 

The responses will be explored using a range of assays including ELISA, Luminex and Bactericidal assays in order to detail the “quality” of the response in mothers and infants. 

5. What will be the global impact of this work? 

There has been a Global resurgence of pertussis in children despite wide spread vaccination with acellular and whole cell vaccines in infancy and, maternal vaccination with Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) in many of the High-income countries.  

A better understanding of immune responses following current vaccines will provide room for generation of data which can be helpful in future vaccine development. 

 Specific to our project; We are vaccinating pregnant women living with HIV(WLWH), comparing them with the HIV uninfected women. 

HIV-exposed infants are known to be more susceptible to infections like pertussis, however in countries where the HIV prevalence is high there is no local context data on the safety and immunogenicity of pertussis vaccination in pregnancy. Vaccinating pregnant WLWH protects their infants in the most vulnerable window of the first three months where they are majorly reliant on antibodies received transplacentally from their mothers. 

Results from our work will be novel regarding immune responses to maternal pertussis vaccines in Women living with HIV and implications on their infants. They will provide insight into how future vaccines work relating to this special group 

 6. How long will you be working on your project at St George’s? 

 The overall project takes an average of four years.

7. What does your work in Uganda involve? 

I work with Makerere University College of Health Sciences and Mulago Specialized Women and Neonatal Hospital. I am involved in Clinical work, training of medical students at undergraduate and postgraduate level and clinical research. 

8. How does this differ to the project work you are completing in the UK? 

While in the UK, I am focused on clinical research laboratory work especially training in the assays-(Luminex and Bactericidal) in order to gain a deeper understanding of immunological responses to maternal vaccines we gave to the participants in our study. I am also working with clinical statisticians regarding clinical trials data analysis and results presentation. 

The work in the UK is contributing to the Global pertussis vaccine research work which I am a part of. 

9. What are some of the most important aspects to consider when implementing country-level research/policy, particularly in LMIC? 

  • Disease burden and need for the area of research (Is the area of research a priority for the LMIC?) 
  • Cost-effectiveness 
  • Training and mentorship of local scientists but beyond these, the research management teams 
  • Appropriate dissemination of key results to the would-be end beneficiaries 
  • Aim to move from Research to influence policy and then practice

10. How can we better communicate and disseminate your research to inform academics, the public, healthcare workers, and others? What communication tools/resources are currently missing? 

Through “appropriate packaging of research for the different audiences” and, regular updates on research progress as found necessary. We could tease out the key messages for each of the mentioned groups and design the best communication strategy for each of the groups beyond officially published results.  

We could also create room for feedback from the different groups. 

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