Engaging diverse communities participating in clinical trials: case examples from across Africa.
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BACKGROUND :In the advent of increasing international collaborative research involving participants drawn from populations with diverse cultural backgrounds, community engagement becomes very critical for the smooth conduction of the research. The African Malaria Network Trust (AMANET) is a pan-African non-governmental organization that sponsors and technically supports malaria vaccine trials in various African countries. CASE DESCRIPTION: AMANET sponsored phase Ib or IIb clinical trials of several malaria vaccine candidates in various Africa countries. In Burkina Faso, Mali and Tanzania trials of the merozoite surface protein 3 -- in its Long Synthetic Peptide configuration (MSP3 LSP) -- were conducted. In Mali, the apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1) was tested, while a hybrid of glutamate rich protein (GLURP) and MSP3 (GMZ2) was tested in Gabon. AMANET recognizes the importance of engaging with the communities from which trial participants are drawn, hence community engagement was given priority in all project activities conducted in the various countries. DISCUSSION AND EVALUATION: Existing local social systems were used to engage the communities from which clinical trial participants were drawn. This article focuses on community engagement activities employed at various AMANET-supported clinical trial sites in different countries, highlighting subtle differences in the approaches used. The paper also gives some general pros and cons of community engagement. CONCLUSIONS: Community engagement enables two-way sharing of accurate information and ideas between researchers and researched communities, which helps to create an environment conducive to smooth research activities with enhanced sense of research ownership by the communities.