In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, STOP consortium partners meet virtually to discuss the project’s progress and future actions
Instead of getting together in Mozambique, as originally planned, STOP team members had to stay at home and interact with the other partners via their computer screens. Despite these limitations, the meeting was fruitful.
“We have had a series of challenges linked to requirements by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the COVID-19 crisis, but the project is on good track,” says Jose Muñoz, STOP coordinator. The trial is now well aligned with EMA’s scientific advice, the fixed dose combination (ivermectin plus albendazole) is being improved, and there is new data supporting a good safety profile and efficacy when ivermectin and albendazole are given at the same time. “Furthermore, the EDCTP has granted us a parallel project (STOP2*) that will allow us to expand activities and develop new research studies, mainly in the field of drug resistance studies,” explains Nana Aba Williams, scientific coordinator of the project. New objectives include online teaching modules to improve diagnostic capacities, validation of a protocol for the use of a mobile optical device, and a study to evaluate perceptions on the acceptability and feasibility of the FDC administration. The extended project is expected to end in September 2023.
During two days, the different teams in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Spain discussed progress achieved in the different work packages, from molecular diagnostics and quality control, to capacity building, clinical trial aspects, and communication actions. The three PhD students of the project (one in Ethiopia, one in Mozambique and one in Spain) presented the objectives and preliminary data of their research projects. Finally, the team identified some aspects that could be affected by the COVID-19 crisis (for example, availability of laboratory reagents, or trial recruitment in schools) and discussed future actions.
The overall goal of the STOP project is to test the safety and efficacy of combining a fixed dose of two drugs (ivermectin and albendazole) in one single tablet for the treatment of soil-transmitted helminths, which affect up to one fifth of the world’s population. If the COVID-19 situation allows, the next annual meeting of the consortium will take place in Mozambique.
*STOP-2 (PSIA2020-3072) is part of the EDCTP2 programme supported by the European Union.