Conducting clinical trials in sub-Saharan Africa: challenges and lessons learned from the Malawi Cryptosporidium study

Trials. 2020 Jul 25;21(1):680. doi: 10.1186/s13063-020-04620-8.


Background: An effective drug to treat cryptosporidial diarrhea in HIV-infected individuals is a global health priority. Promising drugs need to be evaluated in endemic areas which may be challenged by both lack of resources and experience to conduct International Committee of Harmonisation-Good Clinical Practice (ICH-GCP)-compliant clinical trials.

Methods: We present the challenges and lessons learned in implementing a phase 2A, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of clofazimine, in treatment of cryptosporidiosis among HIV-infected adults at a single site in Malawi.

Results: Primary challenges are grouped under study initiation, study population, study implementation, and cultural issues. The lessons learned primarily deal with regulatory system and operational barriers, and recommendations can be applied to other human experimental trials in low- and middle-income countries, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa.

Conclusion: This study demonstrated that initiating and implementing human experimental trials in sub-Saharan Africa can be challenging. However, solutions exist and successful execution requires careful planning, ongoing evaluation, responsiveness to new developments, and oversight of all trial operations.

Keywords: Clinical trial; Clofazimine; Cryptosporidiosis; Developing country; Diarrhea; Low-resource setting; Sub-Saharan Africa.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials, Phase II as Topic
  • Cryptosporidiosis / drug therapy*
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Diarrhea / drug therapy*
  • Diarrhea / parasitology
  • HIV Infections* / congenital
  • Humans
  • Malawi
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Research Design*