The Amani Medical Research Centre was initially established at Ubwari, Muheza by Capt. Dr. Bagster Wilson in 1949 as the former East African Malaria Unit (EAMU) under the Colonial and Welfare Scheme. At that time, EAMU provided services to several Eastern African countries, including British Somaliland, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, and Zanzibar to control of malaria and other vector-borne diseases. In 1951, the Unit was moved to Amani Hill because the premises fell vacant following the former Forestry Research Centre under the East African Agricultural and Forestry Research Organization (EAAFRO) relocating to Muguga in Kenya. The EAMU was then renamed ‘East African Malaria Institute’ (EAMI) and became operational under the East African High Commission (EAHC). During this period, research covered malaria, schistosomiasis and onchocerciasis. In addition, the Centre had a strong training component targeting malaria field workers covering basic malariology and control of malaria vectors.
In 1954, the EAMI was again renamed the ‘East African Institute of Malaria and Vector Borne Diseases’ (EAIMVBD), still operating under the EAHC. Research on schistosomiasis was phased out in 1960, while bancroftian filariasis and plague were introduced as new research areas at the EAIMVBD, then operating under the East African Community (EAC) in the 1970’s. Following the collapse of the EAC in 1977, the EAIMVBD was renamed ‘Amani Medical Research Centre’, which was to operate under the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), established by Act of Parliament No. 23 of 1979 that became operational in 1980.
In August 2005, a decision was made by the NIMR Council to split the Amani Medical Research Centre into two Centers, namely Tanga and Amani Medical Research Centers. Amani Medical Research Centre was re-established with the two remaining sites of Amani Hill and Gonja Research Stations with a field research station in Handeni. The Headquarters of Amani Medical Research Centre was then relocated from Amani Hill to Ubwari in Muheza, Tanga.
The Vision of Amani Medical Research Centre is to become a Centre of Excellence Biology and Control of Vector-Borne Diseases Research, Development and Application of Innovative Vector Control Tools and the application of social sciences (research methods) to address diseases of poverty ( health needs of the underprevileged people) in Africa and beyond
Research Capacity and Facilities:
Amani Medical Research Centre’s headquarters occupies 31 acres of land in Muheza town, approximately 36kms from Tanga City. The Centre has two research stations (Amani Hill and Gonja Research Stations) and one field stations (Handeni Field Station). Amani Hill Research Station is located approximately 74kms from Tanga City and 35kms from Muheza: The station occupies a lush green piece of land of 277.58 acres. The Station has spaces for main administrative offices, laboratories, rest houses, as well as residential houses for her staffs. Gonja Research Station is located in Gonja in Same District – Kilimanjaro. The station occupies about 14.01Ha of land in Gonja town; S:ame 0.818 Ha: The Station has space for main administrative offices, laboratories, rest houses (in Same and Gonja towns), as well as residential houses for staffs. Handeni Field Station is located within the premises of Handeni District Hospital in Tanga region (0.54 Ha)
The Centre has state-of-the-art laboratories and other research facilities for Phase I and II trials of various insecticides, insecticide-treated fabrics, and other vector control tools used in the control of Disease vectors. The Centre has built 13 suites of experimental huts and platforms for phase II trials. Other experimental facilities include a set of large semi-field structures (Mosquito Spheres), animal house, a set of insectaries, Insecticides Testing Facility (ITF), Molecular Laboratory, General/Parasitology Laboratories and Data Management and ICT Unit. The Centre also conducts various community-based randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of major health interventions.
The Centre’s laboratories and other testing facilities are in the final stages of ISO accreditation and certification standards through The South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) Certification planned for conclusion in February 2023. Thereafter, Amani Medical Research Centre will be the SANAS Credited Centre for Research, Development and Evaluation of Novel Vector Control Tools in Africa. This development will formally qualify studies conducted at Amani Medical Research Centre to comply with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Principles of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP).
The Center has an adequate number of qualified staff with a mixture of research disciplines including Medical Entomologists, Epidemiologists, Clinicians, Bio-Statisticians, Social scientists and anthropologists, Laboratory Scientists and Laboratory Technicians. The other qualified staffs that are available at the Centre include Molecular biologists, Parasitologists, Information Technology staffs (ICT personnel). The Research Staff have a long- and medium-term research experiences of up to over 30 years’ experiences in carrying out health research including evaluation of vector control tools, epidemiological and Clinical Trials, implementation, operational and applied research, Health Systems and Policy Research. The Centre also has other highly qualified human resources, which include Accountants, Administrators, Laboratory Attendants, and Drivers,
Amani Medical Research Centre has more than 73 years of health research experience, working at national, regional and international levels. The Centre has contributed substantially to disease control efforts. Over 3000 scientific papers have been published in national and international peer-reviewed journals. The global malaria community recognizes the Centre as a leader in malaria and vector borne diseases research. The latest focus is on insecticide-treated bed nets’ effectiveness in protecting populations from malaria; intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in infants; monitoring antimalarial treatment efficacy and detecting treatment failures. The Centre was one of the African pioneer institutions that carried out very early field trials to evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of several insecticides and other vector control tools for malaria vector control dating from 1955. Scientists at Amani Medical Research Centre have contributed extensively on how malaria is prevented and treated worldwide.
Over the past four decades, the Centre has been a long-term dependable partner of the World Health Organization Pesticides Evaluation Scheme (WHOPES) and its successor, the World Health Organization Prequalification Team for Vector Control Products (WHO PQT-VC) in research related to the development and evaluation of public health pesticides and other vector control tools, including insecticide treated nets. For a number of years, Amani Medical Research Centre has been working with several global pharmaceutical companies and the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC) in the research and development of public health insecticides and other vector control products.
NIMR Amani Research Centre has most of the required capacity in infrastructure, skilled personnel and technologies. Similarly, Amani Medical Research Centre has been working closely with the Ministry of Health through the provision of technical support to national disease control programmes, notably the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) and the National Program of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD), required to conduct operational research and control of disease-vectors.
Other important activities:
The Amani Medical Research Centre is focused on achieving its vision of being a Centre of Excellence in Vector Biology, Ecology and Control, as well as a GLP Centre for Research, Development and Evaluation of Novel Vector control tools in Africa and beyond. The following activities are currently in the pipeline in order to contribute towards achieving the vision:
- Establishing the Research Training Centre based at Amani Hill Research Station
The primary aim of establishing the Amani Training Centre is to contribute effectively to creating a critical mass of academicians, researchers and health service providers with cutting edge skills in the United Republic of Tanzania and beyond. This is in line with the current NIMR Strategic plan (2019 – 2024), which falls under strategic objective D.
The Research Training Centre will generate well-trained and skilled workforce required for staffing the rare professions, which include Biomedical Engineering & Medical Instrumentation, Disease Vectors and Control of Vector-Borne Diseases, Research Methodology, Bioethics, and Epidemic Preparedness & Management.
- Establishing a unit of registration and regulation of Public Health Pesticides in Tanzania.
The Ministry of Health has authorized NIMR to assume the roles formerly vested in the defunct Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) regarding registration and control of Public Health Pesticides and other Vector Control Products in Tanzania.
Amani Medical Research Centre is in the final stages of establishing a Unit of registration and regulation of Public Health Pesticides. Amani Medical Research Centre has most of the required capacity in terms of infrastructure, skilled personnel and technologies. Among other things the Centre shall be responsible for:
- carrying out, and promoting the carrying out, of research, and to evaluate and disseminate the findings on the fundamental aspects of vector control tools, pesticides and/or insecticides of public health importance application in relation to the control of disease-vectors by both ground and aerial spraying techniques, including community use and acceptability studies,
- approving and registering all pesticides and/or insecticides of public health and other vector control tools in the country,
- supervising and regulating the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale and use of pesticides and/or insecticides of public health importance as well as other vector control tools in the United Republic of Tanzania.
Laboratory facilities at Amani Center
All NIMR Amani laboratories are provided with sufficient space and reliable infrastructure to perform its work, to ensure the quality, safety and efficacy of the services provided and to meet international standards and safety regulations.
The laboratories adopted a quality management system for the purpose of complying with GLP standards and to efficiently manage its resources. All employees are committed to the culture of quality. All staff shares responsibility for identifying nonconformities recording these instances so that corrective or preventive actions can be taken to ensure the laboratory meets the standards it has set.
Currently, the laboratory department has 16 laboratory staffs, among them 2 has MSc, 2 BSc, 2 Diploma 2 certificates and 8 laboratory assistants. The center has the following scientific laboratory:- Molecular laboratory, Insecticides Testing Facility and General laboratory.
NIMR-Amani center has the molecular laboratory which is well equipped with modern equipment’s e.g. Real Time-Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR), Conventional PCR. The laboratory has the capacity to analyze varieties of samples by PCR (protein and or nucleic acid), DNA concentration.
These laboratory is equipped with high tech calibrated and maintained equipment’s for analysis of various research samples. The laboratory is used for training of students through either short or long-term attachment for research activities. The laboratory also have the capacity to analyse samples for clinical trials.
Mosquito spheres are large netting enclosures which prevent mosquitoes from entering from outside or escaping once released from inside the sphere. This unique facility provides an exceptional opportunity for field-oriented mosquito-borne diseases control research without exposure to infected vectors. Three mosquito spheres have been built at NIMR Amani Research Centre, at Ubwari area, Muheza, Tanga, Tanzania.
The mosquito sphere has a length of 12.2m, width of 8.2m, and a height of 5m, and it allows normal flow of air, temperature, relative humidity and rainfall in a similar way to outdoor environment. Therefore, mosquito spheres make a semi-field system which simulates real ecosystem of mosquito species; with simulated breeding sites, a residential hut and different types of plants.
The semi field environment has an advantage that it can be used for studying various behaviours of mosquitoes and exploit the findings to develop novel control strategies. Such behaviours includes: swarming and mating, host seeking, sugar seeking, resting, oviposition, dispersal etc. Within mosquito spheres, high through-put testing of mosquito traps, repellents and other control devices with infected colony reared mosquitoes can be conducted in a more realistic environment than that of the laboratory and a more controlled environment than that of the field.
Several tests have been conducted so far in mosquito spheres, these include; flight and dispersal studies such as mark and recapture of mosquito, oviposition behaviour in different substrates containing attractants and deterrents, testing of different traps using odour baits and evaluation of the efficacy of biolarvicides as well as botanical pesticides.
Several papers have been published resulting from the use of mosquito spheres which ranges from exploiting oviposition, host seeking, resting and flight behaviour. Many papers and manuscripts have been developed using such semi-field systems. The semi-field system at Muheza have supported several post-doctoral students, PhD students, MSc students and several undergraduate students from various University visit each year for education and research purposes.
The Center also owned a suite of 12 experimental huts based on the East African Design, and another one of two experimental huts based on a West African Design. These are used as standard facilities for the World Health Organization Pesticide Evaluation Scheme (WHOPES) Phase II controlled semi-field evaluation of vector control tools including Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs), Insecticide treated materials such as sheets and blankets, Insecticides and various brands of repellents. To link experimental hut studies to field (community) studies, the Centre have put up an additional facility.