Amani Research Centre

Amani Research Centre is located at Ubwari in Muheza, north-eastern Tanzania at about 40 km west of Tanga City. Amani Medical Research centre was initially established at Ubwari, Muheza by Capt. Dr. Bagster Wilson in 1949 as the East African Malaria Unit (EAMU) under the British Colonial and Welfare Scheme.  At that time, the unit served British Somaliland, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, and Zanzibar in the control of malaria and other vector-borne diseases. In 1951, the Unit was moved to Amani and was renamed East African Malaria Institute and became operational under the East African High Commission in 1951.   During this period research covered malaria, schistosomiasis and onchocerciasis. In addition the Institute had a strong training component targeting malaria field workers covering basic malariology and control of malaria vectors.

In 1954, the EAMI was renamed the East African Institute of Malaria and Vector Borne Diseases (EAIMVBD). While research on schistosomiasis was phased out in 1960, Bancroftian filariasis and plague were introduced as new research areas at the EAIMVBD. Following the collapse of the East African Community in 1977, the EAIMVBD was renamed Amani Medical Research Centre of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).

Amani Medical Research Centre has six departments, two research stations and two Field Stations. The departments are (i) Research Programmes, Monitoring & Control; (ii) Data Management, Bioinformatics & Documentation; (iii) Research Information, Technology & Communication; (iv) Accounts & Finance; (iv) Human Resources; and (v) Laboratory Sciences.

The Centre has 134 staff categorized as scientific and non-scientific staff. The list of scientific staff comprises of 6 PhDs, 4 PhD candidates, 3 MSc, 3 MSc candidates and 2 BSc degree holders. Qualification for the rest of scientific staff varies from advanced diploma, diploma and certificates in different disciplines. Non scientific staff includes administrators, accountants, system analysts, office supervisors, artisans, security guards, drivers, office assistants and housekeepers.

Amani Research Centre has a vision of developing itself into a centre of excellence in vector biology and disease control research.  Based on the NIMR strategic plan (2003 – 2013) Amani Research Centre focuses on a broader agenda that includes research on malaria, plague, lymphatic filariasis, tick-borne relapsing fever, onchocerciasis, health systems and policy. The Centre also undertakes bio-informatics, diagnostics and laboratory sciences as well as demographic surveillance systems, basic and applied research (genetics and molecular biology) and indigenous knowledge and traditional medicine.

Amani runs it research activities from its Headquarters at Ubwari and its 3 field stations at Amani Hill, Gonja, Handeni and Bombo. The Centre Headquarters at Ubwari, Muheza occupies 31 acres of land. There are laboratory facilities, office space, and a rest house. Other experimental facilities include a set of mosquito spheres, an animal house, an insectary and a suite of experimental huts as well as experimental platforms. Amani Hill Field Station is located within the Amani Nature Reserve, approximately 74km from Tanga City and 35km from Muheza Town. The Amani Hill station occupies a lush green piece of land of 227.58 acres. The Station has space for administrative offices, laboratories, a rest house, as well as residential houses.  Gonja Research Station is located on the foothill of Pare Mountains in Same District. The Station has space for main administrative offices, laboratories, rest houses, as well as residential houses. The Bombo and Handeni Field Stations are located within the premises of Bombo Regional and Handeni District Hospitals, respectively. The Bombo Field station is well equipped with modern laboratory facilities for molecular research in malaria and lymphatic filariasis.

Amani Centre has been the WHO reference centre for conducting trials on the efficacy of various insecticide treated fabrics under various settings, and has put up facilities for Phase II trials of insecticides and insecticide treated fabrics. In collaboration with WHOPES and industries, the Centre is involved in field trials of various insecticide products. The Phase II trials are conducted under semi-field conditions in the experimental huts at both Kisiwani and Zeneti trial sites in Muheza. The trial site at Zeneti has 12 experimental huts consistently used as watch-dog for national and international monitoring of malaria vector resistance to insecticides of public health relevance including the pyrethroids currently used for Long-Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs). The experimental huts are also used for evaluating new vector control tools.

A series of Experimental Huts at Zeneti site in Muheza

Amani Medical Research Centre conducts a number of research activities including efficacy trials of insecticide treated mosquito nets and other treated fabrics, mosquito population genetics, determinants of malaria epidemics, monitoring of insecticide resistance of malaria vectors to insecticides of public health relevance, monitoring of lymphatic filariasis elimination efforts and integrated malaria control programs. Other studies include effect of HIV on malaria treatment outcome, typhoid fever surveillance, and rational treatment of non-severe febrile illness in children, efficacy trials of antimalarial drugs such as injectable artesunate, quinine, combinations of artesunate-azithromycin, artemether-lumefantrine and impact of mass drug administration with Azithromycin on the burden of malaria. In addition we provide training and consultancy services, including a two-week international course on mosquito ecology and control, conducted annually since 2005.

The Amani Research Centre has contributed substantially on disease control efforts. Over 400 scientific papers have been published in peer reviewed journals. The Centre is recognized by the global malaria community as a leader in malaria research. Among Amani Research Centre’s premier contributions on vector control are studies, and on the taxonomy, behavioural ecology and spatial distribution of Anopheles gambiae and Culex quinquefasciatus. Amani Research Centre is one of the pioneer African institutions that carried out the very early field trials for evaluation of the efficacy of insecticide treated nets that provided the first evidence that treated mosquito nets lower malaria transmission and thereafter strongly promoted treated net scale-up. The Centre has been also the WHO reference centre for conducting trials on the efficacy of various insecticide treated fabrics under various settings, and has put up facilities for Phase II trials of insecticides and insecticide treated fabrics. In collaboration with WHOPES and industries, the institute is involved in field trials of various insecticide products. The centre has recently established a national programme on detection and monitoring of malaria vectors resistance to insecticides of public health relevance from 14 sentinel districts.