The two-day meeting included a visit to one of the communities that will participate in the clinical trial

Lake Tana, in northern Ethiopia, was the lovely setting for the second STOP consortium meeting, held on October 25 and 26. Team members from the partner institutions in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, UK, The Netherlands, and Spain gathered in Bahir Dar to present progress made and discuss next steps for the clinical trial, which will start in 2020. The trial will test the safety and efficacy of a fixed dose combination of albendazole and ivermectin for treating soil transmitted helminths (STH), and will recruit and treat almost 1,800 schoolchildren in Kenya, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

Getting ready for the trial

The team members have dedicated this first year of the project to establish the different laboratory protocols for quantifying helminth infection before and after treatment, and testing for potential drug resistance markers. The different work groups also carried out building capacity activities at the three trial sites, initiated the clinical trial approval process by the national ethical committees, and held several meetings to prepare the regulatory process for the new formulation, among other things. “The results presented at the meeting provide important input for the ALIVE clinical trial,” says project leader Jose Muñoz. “We expect to start recruiting the first participants in the first quarter of 2020.” In addition, the three PhD students of the project presented the objectives and methodology of the research work they will carry out during the next three years. The group also discussed the creation of a regional network for the molecular detection of STH, and its sustainability beyond the project´s 4-year lifespan.

A visit to the community

A highlight of the two-day meeting was the opportunity to visit a rural community where recruitment for the trial will take place, and to talk with ‘health extension workers’ from the community’s health post, which provides the first level of care focused on health promotion, disease prevention and treating common diseases in rural areas. “Each health post covers in average 1,000 households and provides free-of-charge family planning, immunisation and diagnosis and treatment for the most frequent diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea,” explains Wendemagegn Enbiale, principal investigator of the Ethiopia trial site. “More severe cases are referred to the region’s health centre or to the hospital.”

Another highlight for the attendees was a leisure boat trip to some of the lake’s islands, where they could appreciate the beautiful paintings of the 14th-century monasteries.

The next full consortium meeting will take place in one year, in Mozambique.