Journal of Hygiene

Research Article

Trachoma vaccine field trials in The Gambia

Shiona Sowaa1, J. Sowaa1, L. H. Colliera1 and W. A. Blytha1

a1 M.R.C. Trachoma Unit, Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, London, S. W. 1, and Medical Research Council Laboratories, Fajara, The Gambia


The ability of two live trachoma vaccines to protect against naturally acquired infection was tested in young Gambian children. With a mineral oil adjuvant vaccine prepared from a Gambian strain of trachoma (MRC–187) a barely significant measure of protection was demonstrable 6 months after the first dose, but not at 1 year, despite a reinforcing dose given 6 months after the first. In a later trial an aqueous vaccine prepared from the ‘fast-killing’ variants of strains ‘SA–2’ and ‘ASGH’ failed to induce immunity. Two years after vaccination, the proportion of vaccinated children progressing to cicatricial trachoma was less than in the controls, and the average severity of the disease in terms of clinical score was greater; vaccine-induced hypersensitivity may have contributed to this result.

Irrespective of whether they had received trachoma vaccine, children with completely normal eyes at the outset were less likely to acquire trachoma than those with slight conjunctival folliculosis or papillary hyperplasia. In children acquiring trachoma, there was a highly significant positive correlation between severity of the disease and the presence of conjunctival inclusions. The pattern of trachoma differed significantly in the two villages used in both trials; the prev alence, severity and proportion of inclusion-positive subjects were all higher in the village with the greater population density.

An efficient follow-up organization, use of a slit-lamp for clinical observations, and a scoring system for recording physical signs are all desirable for trachoma vaccine field trials.

We are highly indebted to Dr G. Turner (Lister Institute, Elstree, Herts) for his assistance in making the vaccine used for Trial II; to Dr N. M. Lam (Pfizer Ltd.) and Dr C. H. Smith (Evans Medical Ltd.) for making the Trial III vaccine; to Dr I. A. Sutherland (M.R.C. Statistical Unit) for his advice and help with the statistical aspects; to the Pennsylvania Refinery Co. Inc. for a generous gift of Drakeol 6 VR; and to Mr M. Race for his invaluable technical assistance in The Gambia. We are also grateful to the Director and staff of the M.R.C. Laboratories, The Gambia, for various facilities; and to The Gambian Government for per mission to undertake these trials.

(Received May 23 1969)