CAPACITY STATEMENT FOR NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR MEDICAL RESEARCH (NIMR) TABORA MEDICAL RESEARCH CENTRE
Historical Evolution since 1922
Tabora Medical Research Centre is the oldest NIMR Centre located in Tabora Municipality Western Tanzania. Its genesis stems back to the British Colonial Government era when it was established in 1922 as a sleeping sickness unit. The unit was responsible for medical surveillance and treatment of sleeping sickness cases (Human African trypanosomiasis). After independence in 1961 and prior to the establishment of NIMR, the unit was still under the management of the East African Medical Research Council (EAMRC), established in 1957. In 1963 the Sleeping Sickness Unit was taken by the Ministry of Health. During that period, Tabora was still experiencing outbreaks of human trypanosomiasis and therefore the Ministry decided to keep Tabora as the Sleeping Sickness Coordination Unit and main treatment centre of the country.
The Centre has three buildings; one is the oldest building which is currently used as a small laboratory animal unit, the second building is compartmented into offices, and the third one is used as a laboratory having two wings, the first wing is used to handle all parasitological routine activities such as diagnosis for malaria, trypanosomiasis and helminths while the second wing is used as molecular biology laboratory.
Currently, the molecular laboratory is equipped and capable to perform sequencing using nanopore technology.
The centre has about 4000SqM land which is suitable and capable to accommodate buildings for the laboratory, conference centre and scientist Rest houses
The centre has a total number of eleven staff and among them, there is one Principal scientist (PhD) – Epidemiology, one senior Scientist (MPVM) – Entomology/parasitology, one Research Assistant (BSc) – Sociology and two laboratory technologists. Other supporting staff include the accountant (1), data clerk (1), personal secretary (1) and three office attendants.
The Centre receives funds from the Tanzanian government to cover other charges and salaries. while most of the research activities are supported by external development partners.
The focus of the station
Over many decades, the mandate of the centre has mainly been to carry out, coordinate, promote, document research and control human trypanosomiasis in Tanzania. It is also mandated to formulate priorities for human trypanosomiasis research and control and also monitoring of sleeping sickness in the country. It has kept collaborating with health facilities in sleeping sickness endemic sites in Tanzania.
Currently, the centre can offer an on-demand basis, the sleeping sickness refresher-training course to different institution/organization groups for up to ten participants at a moment. The number of days for the training range from 1 to 3 days depending on the scope defined by the beneficiary. The three days training covers the sleeping sickness overview, clinical sign and symptoms, laboratory diagnosis and treatment regimen
To align with changes in the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases in the country, the centre has recently expanded its research arena to include research in chemotherapy of SS, Malaria vectors, HIV/AIDS, Antimicrobial resistance research and Rift Valley fever. It has also taken the frontline position towards strengthening disease surveillance systems in the country using the One Health approach. Through its laboratory, the centre provides basic laboratory services to its surrounding human population
Current and past research experiences
Through the research carried out at the centre, several achievements were made including capacity building through training of health workers in SS endemic areas on the diagnosis and control of the disease, reducing the incidences of SS by 80% in endemic areas by creating public awareness on the control measures and their use.
Studies on an improved (new) treatment protocol with available drugs (Suramin and Melarsoprol provided promising results of shortening the treatment schedule for SS from 1 month to 10 days. The Centre has devised a simple double net trap for the collection of host-seeking mosquitoes and has participated in the control of malaria through the use of the indoor residual spray.
The Centre has characterized habitat suitability and risk of Rift Valley fever occurrence in Tanzania leading to the revision and updating of the National Rift Valley fever Preparedness and Response Plan using the One Health approach.
The centre has also participated in the designing, development and deployment of a digital disease surveillance tool branded AfyaData. This initiative was implemented collaboratively with the Sokoine University of Agriculture through the SACIDS Foundation for One Health.