The Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Programme (MLW) executed discussions on 20 October 2023 with healthcare and community leaders in Blantyre, in preparation for a groundbreaking research study set to commence in November 2023.
This pioneering study officially titled “Can cross-protective tissue-resident immunity be harnessed for SARS-CoV-2 variant protection in Malawian populations with or without HIV infection?” but commonly referred to as “Lung-COVID” has a primary objective: to assess the extent of lung immunity against the COVID-19 virus in individuals with both HIV-positive and HIV-negative statuses.
The research protocol developed by MLW highlights that while prior COVID-19 vaccinations have proven effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalisation, and death, they have been less successful in curtailing virus transmission, resulting in the emergence of worrisome, immune-evasive variants. Consequently, this study is of utmost significance in Malawi’s ongoing battle against the virus.
Adhering to the standard procedure for introducing a new study, MLW is first notifying community leaders and healthcare professionals, prior to disseminating this information to the wider public. To date, MLW’s community engagement team has communicated details to more than five health centers and various local chiefs across Blantyre.
This ambitious study is designed to span three years and intends to involve a total of 363 participants from within Blantyre. These participants will be organized into two primary groups. The first group comprises 159 individuals who have been vaccinated, with subgroups consisting of 53 HIV-negative individuals, 53 HIV-positive individuals not on antiretroviral therapy or within the first week of such therapy, and 53 HIV-positive individuals on antiretroviral therapy for over a year. The second group mirrors the first, featuring 159 unvaccinated individuals structured similarly to their vaccinated counterparts. Furthermore, an exploratory arm will include 45 asymptomatic adults, with 15 individuals in each HIV status subgroup, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status.
Malawi was severely affected by the COVID-19 virus, which made its entry in July 2020 and led to one of the most devastating outbreaks in the country’s history, claiming the lives of numerous Malawians.