Building awareness, local capacity and fostering collective action on HPV research

The WAKA HPV Africa project started in 2014 as a VLIR UOS North South South Cooperation Programme in the framework of the Institutional University Cooperation (IUC) with the University of Limpopo.

The three major goals are:

  • To collect high quality data on HPV knowledge (laboratory, public health, sociology) on a national level, co-ordinated at a supra-national level;
  • To increase awareness and knowledge with national and supra-national politics and policy in a shared national and supranational approach;
  • To build local laboratory capacity and laboratory quality control/assurance, supported by a centralized, African-based Reference Lab that is supported by the founding Universities.

The programme is coordinated by John-Paul Bogers (University of Antwerp) and supported by the Global Health Institute of the University of Antwerp (Prof. Jean-Pierre Van geertruyden and his team) and Jeffrey Mphahlele/Lisbeth Lebelo (Sefako Maghato University, former Medunsa Campus of the University of Limpopo).

HPV is the main, almost unique cause of cervix carcinoma in adult women. Unfortunately, currently, many African countries lack comprehensive data on the circulating HPV types and Africa may harbor a variety of unexplored circulating HPV types which are uniquely distributed in various cancers and benign lesions.
This NSS initiative will establish a HPV research network between several VLIR partners of whom some are already conducting HPV and/or cervix carcinoma research with own VLIR-UOS funding.

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This network wants to reach three distinct results. First we will link up the interested researchers of different interested and participating VLIR-UOS collaborations. During a kick-off meeting the ongoing research will be described, a standardized survey protocol discussed and synchronized, recipients explained and distributed to all participants. A platform website will be created. It is well known that 99.9% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV infection especially HPV 16 and HPV 18. HPV vaccination is a high priority in African countries due to high incidence and mortality rate of cervical cancer in these areas. Many African countries will be introducing HPV vaccines in the near future and others have already introduced the vaccines into national immunization programs. Other African countries will be introducing these vaccines without baseline data on the circulating HPV types. Although some countries such as Uganda and Kenya have documented HPV infection in men and women, data from these countries was documented through collaborative work with developed countries with expertise. For HPV research to be sustainable in Africa researchers need to be capacitated to perform any work in their countries. To generate epidemiological data for public health purposes, monitoring of HPV vaccination impact, conduct training on HPV testing and genotyping. The network will strengthen and capacitate the African countries with no expertise on HPV testing and genotyping to implement methods of HPV detection and HPV typing in their own individual laboratories in individual countries. Therefore, strengthening the VLIR network within African countries for further collaborations. During the following year all sites will conduct a HPV prevalence study to identify the circulating strains by age group. Biological samples will be sent and analyzed to the accredited HPV laboratory in Medunsa, Limpopo. The accredited laboratory is established with VLIR-UOS IUC-UL funding. Results will be sent back to the sites for statistical analyses and writing up. The Burundian samples have already been collected and may be analyzed before 1st April, 2014. Some sites (RDCongo, Burundi and Uganda) will fund the fieldwork through their ongoing VLIR collaboration others will be supported by this NSS. Furthermore, the Congolese site will conduct a diagnostic-therapeutic study with a new HPV presumptive treatment in collaboration with private partners. Once the results of this diagnostic, therapeutic algorithm are known a multicenter trial will be in initiated. During the second HPV partner meeting all results will be shared. Ideally this meeting will serve as kick off meeting for an externally funded multi-center study where data-management, study monitors and sponsors will be equally invited to share study material, study procedures, etc…