A new European-African collaboration to improve the way infections in newborns are treated has been launched in July 2023. The project, called SNIP-AFRICA, aims to reduce mortality among neonates in hospital with sepsis in Africa, in an era of increasing antimicrobial resistance.

Funded by the European Union under the Global Health EDCTP3 Programme, 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. 

SNIP-AFRICA is a landmark project that will bring together leading scientists from Africa and Europe to address this major global health challenge,” said Carlo Giaquinto, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Padova, President of Fondazione Penta ETS (Italy) and project coordinator. “We believe that this project will help us identify new and better treatments for newborn sepsis, which is a leading cause of death in newborns in Africa.” 

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues and organs. In newborns, sepsis is often caused by bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics, which makes it even more difficult to treat. 

Every year, 214,000 newborn babies die of sepsis that has become resistant to antibiotics, making it a major health threat worldwide. Low- and middle-income countries, especially in Africa, are particularly affected by this problem due to the lack of resources for diagnosis and treatment. 

What’s more, the heterogeneous nature of sepsis means that relevant research questions may vary greatly from one hospital to another, posing a challenge for traditional clinical trials to comprehensively grasp the complexities and variations of this condition, 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. In comparison to traditional trial designs, adaptive platform trials can address multiple research questions simultaneously, providing a more personalised approach to researching neonatal sepsis.

SNIP-AFRICA is a critical step in the fight against newborn sepsis,” said Julia Bielicki, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Neonatal and Paediatric Infection of St George’s University of London (United Kingdom), and SNIP-AFRICA scientific coordinator. “We are excited to see this project get underway, and we are confident that it will make a significant difference in the lives of newborns in Africa.”

The trial plans to enroll 1,200 neonates 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 Consortium will also invest in building the capacity of African researchers and clinicians to develop and implement future adaptive trials, fostering a culture of knowledge-sharing and collaboration. Through this project, we aspire to build a robust network of trained investigators and sites capable of designing and conducting complex clinical trials in challenging environments.

SNIP-AFRICA will be coordinated by Fondazione Penta ETS, while St George's University of London will be responsible for scientific oversight. The University of Antwerp, Belgium, is involved in building laboratory capacity to enable better and quicker diagnosis of neonatal sepsis in African sites as well as in setting up state-of-the-art genomic approaches to understand the epidemiology and antibiotic resistance of pathogens causing neonatal sepsis in African hospitals.  “With SNIP-AFRICA, we and our African counterparts aim to increase our understanding of pathogens causing neonatal sepsis in Africa to enable targeted therapeutic strategies” said Surbhi Malhotra-Kumar, Professor of Medical Microbiology and Principal Investigator, University of Antwerp (Belgium), partner in SNIP-AFRICA.

Overall, ten project partners from European and African countries will come together to constitute a diverse Consortium of partners with extensive experience in neonatology and in designing and conducting randomised controlled trials in Africa, including adaptive trials. 

SNIP-AFRICA's ambition is to innovate research on severe childhood infections, particularly neonatal sepsis. By using novel adaptive trial design elements, the project will generate evidence to improve antibiotic treatment of this deadly condition. This will significantly improve the wellbeing of newborns and infants, who are at the highest risk of infection from difficult-to-treat bacteria.



SNIP-AFRICA (project No. 101103201) is part of the EDCTP3 Programme supported by the European Union. Project coordination is managed by Fondazione Penta ETS (Padova, Italy), whereas scientific coordination is managed by St George’s, University of London (London, United Kingdom). 

Other partners are: University College London (London, United Kingdom); African Research Collaboration for Health (Kilifi, Kenya); Stellenbosch University (Stellenbosch, South Africa); Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Kumasi (Kumasi, Ghana); DNDi-GARDP Southern Africa NPC (Cape Town, South Africa); MUJHU Care (Kampala, Uganda); Ifakara Health Institute Trust (Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania); University of Antwerp (Antwerp, Belgium). 


About Penta: 

Penta is an international independent scientific network devoted to advancing research on optimising the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases in children, globally.  More than 30 years since its creation, Penta is today one of the most prominent scientific organisations dedicated to research on maternal and childhood infections, such as HIV and viral infections, fungal infections, respiratory infections (COVID-19, RSV) and severe bacterial infections. www.penta-id.org