The research activities of BRTI are intended to be broad and encompass health problems (in both medical and veterinary fields) that are recognized as priority areas for research in the region. All kinds of research may receive BRTI support, provided that research activities adhere to national and international ethical principles, are relevant to health problems of he region and provide opportunities for local capacity building at individual, institutional and national levels.

RESEARCH STUDIES AT BRTI SINCE 1995

  • Clinical trials of treatments for shigellosis, tuberculosis and HIV management
  • Epidemiological studies of HIV, arboviral disease, avian influenza, rickettsial infections, malaria, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Genetic and Molecular studies in infectious disease, including genotyping, molecular epidemiology and research into the emergence and spread of resistance
  • Clinical studies of meningitis, childhood pneumonia, pulmonary infections, HIV in adolescents and HIV co-infections
  • Diagnostic evaluations for sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis, malaria, maternally transmitted HIV and new technologies to quantify CD4 cells, and covering qualitative, quantitative and operational studies.
  • Health systems research, including health policy research and research on health financing and human resources for health
  • Community studies of HIV, child health, nutrition, psycho-social problems and educational opportunities for OVC
  • Laboratory studies on cholera and other enteric diseases as well as sexually transmitted infections and antibiotic resistance
  • Qualitative research on diagnostics and ethical issues in health research

During the last 20 years the BRTI has been responsible for the conduct of more than 80 internationally funded research studies. These studies have received funding from a variety of international agencies including the Wellcome Trust, the European Community and the European Developing Country Clinical Trials Partnership, the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Kellogg Foundation, the UK Department for International Development, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the World Health Organisation, the International Atomic Energy Agency UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, Plan International and others.

TB laboratory research

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Research at BRTI is carried out mostly through collaboration between local and international scientists. The BRTI tries to ensure that this is a true collaboration that uses the skills of local researchers and encourages postgraduate students to be actively involved in the project. International collaborations have been established with London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Imperial College, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Oxford University, Stanford University, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, University of California at San Francisco and many others.

Collaboration starts with a Memorandum of Understanding that sets out the commitments and expectations from both parties. Regular meetings are held between the scientific and administrative staff of BRTI and the Principal Investigator of each project to ensure that problems are identified and dealt with at an early stage.

Community research in Manicaland

The SK Chandiwana Public Health Research Centre

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New clinical, laboratory and community projects are being identified continuously. We actively encourage local scientists to apply for research funding, using the grants administration system of the BRTI to prepare an effective proposal that can compete successfully in calls for proposals. Strengthening the capacity of researchers to prepare competitive proposals is a high priority area for BRTI. We also encourage international researchers to consider using the BRTI to develop and implement international research collaborations in clinical, epidemiological and laboratory studies. The BRTI has extensive expertise in the conduct of multi-national and multi-site studies in many different fields and can provide unique opportunities for international scientists to have access to high quality research and administrative facilities in southern Africa.

In addition to research, the BRTI has managed programmatic activities that contribute to developing national priorities in health care delivery. These programmatic activity awards have been achieved in response to competitive calls that take into account both the abilities of the study team to complete the desired programme, and also the ability of BRTI to provide effective and efficient programme and financial management. Indeed BRTI has been requested, in some cases, to provide financial management training to other collaborating institutions.

 xxThe BRTI has developed strong links with Ministry of Health & Child Care (particularly with Department of Epidemiology and Control, the HIV/AIDS & TB Unit, the Malaria Control Programme and the Nursing Services Directorate), Provincial & District Medical Officers and with City Health staff all of whom have contributed to proposal development and project implementation. Affiliations are held with Africa University and with the National Blood Service of Zimbabwe and BRTI collaborates with national research institutions such as National Institute of Health Research, National Microbiology Reference Laboratory and National AIDS Council in the implementation of research projects.

PROGRAMMATIC ACTIVITY AT BRTI

  • Strengthening infection control policy and practice at clinics throughout Zimbabwe
  • Training of Microscopists as a new health-care cadre for deployment to District and Provincial laboratories
  • Training of laboratory staff for detection, identification and drug susceptibility testing for TB infections
  • Design, conduct and supervision of the National TB Prevalence Survey
  • Design and conduct of the National HIV Prevalence Survey
  • Evaluation of the impact of HIV and STI service integration in Zimbabwe
  • Improving laboratory facilities for Early Infant Diagnosis
  • Assist programme managers to design and implement research driven, evidence-based, intervention programmes to assist children, families and communities affected by HIV/AIDS

In order to improve the implementation of research and programmatic activities the BRTI has adopted new strategies in ICT such as the use of GPS to identify specific sites, the use of bar-coding to track specimens through laboratory processing, and data capture in electronic format using hand-held devices with automatic update of data to a central server on a pre-timed basis. For the national TB Prevalence Survey digital chest X-rays were taken in the field using mobile units, with data being transmitted to Harare for review in real time by the study radiologist. The IT Department at BRTI is responsible for the installation and maintenance of these instruments.

From its commitment to the conduct of ethical research, the BRTI established an Institutional Review Board in 1997 to conduct ethical review of all BRTI projects. The BRTI-IRB was supported by EDCTP. The EDCTP and WHO funded training of staff and students in ethical aspects of health research in Africa. The Ethics Research Unit has conducted research into African concepts of informed consent and provides support to postgraduate students and researchers in ensuring their research is compliant with ethical standards. The ERU maintains close collaboration with national regulatory authorities in Zimbabwe. Both training courses and discussion workshops have been arranged with other IRB and regulatory authorities to assist in the development of sound regulatory and ethical principles at national level for matters such as the conduct of clinical trials, and the conduct of research at multi-national sites.