New scientific collaboration aims to reduce sepsis deaths in African newborns

03 Aug 2023

A new European-African collaboration to improve the way infections in newborn babies are treated launched last week. The project, called SNIP-AFRICA, aims to reduce deaths among newborns in hospital with sepsis in Africa, in an era of increasing antimicrobial resistance.

SNIP-AFRICA will conduct an adaptive trial to identify the best drug regimens and doses for difficult-to-treat infections and sepsis, which threaten the lives of newborns in neonatal units in sub-Saharan African countries. 

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues and organs. Neonatal sepsis is a major health threat worldwide. Every year, 214,000 newborns die from sepsis which has become resistant to antibiotics, making it even more difficult to treat. Low- and middle-income countries, especially in Africa, are particularly affected by this problem due to a lack of resources for diagnosis and treatment. 

Furthermore, patterns of antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance differ across regions, so the relevant research questions may vary greatly from one hospital to another. This poses a challenge for traditional clinical trials to account for this variation, and to find treatments suitable for multiple settings.

The SNIP-AFRICA trial will use an adaptive platform design, which allows researchers to adjust the trial as it progresses based on the results of early data. Adaptive platform trials can also address multiple research questions simultaneously, providing a more personalised approach to neonatal sepsis research.

By using novel adaptive trial design elements, the project will generate evidence on the best ways to treat this deadly condition. Ultimately, this will improve the wellbeing of newborns and infants, who are at the highest risk of infection from difficult-to-treat bacteria.

Researchers plan to enroll 1,200 newborns in six neonatal intensive care units in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. The first patients are expected to be enrolled in June 2025.

To guarantee the sustainability of the SNIP-AFRICA platform, the project will also invest in building the capacity of African researchers and clinicians to develop and implement future adaptive trials. The project will foster a culture of knowledge-sharing and collaboration across a network of trained investigators and sites.

SNIP-AFRICA brings together ten project partners from European and African countries with extensive experience in neonatology and conducting randomised controlled trials in Africa. Fondazione Penta ETS will coordinate the project, while St George's University of London are responsible for scientific oversight. The MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL will lead on the design, conduct and statistical analysis of the adaptive platform trial.

SNIP-AFRICA is funded by the European Union under the Global Health EDCTP3 Programme (project No. 101103201).

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