Intramural: Reports

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These reports that are produced by SAMRC staff are namely technical reports and policy briefs.


Recent Submissions

  • Publication
    Managing therapeutic uncertainty in the COVID-19 pandemic: rapid evidence syntheses and transparent decision-making
    (South African Health Review, 2021-12-08) Leong, TD; Gray, A; Kredo, T; De Waal, R; Cohen, K; Parrish, A; Dawood, H; Tamara Kredo: Cochrane South Africa, South African Medical Research Council
  • Publication
    A rapid review of the effectiveness of screening practices at airports, land borders and ports to reduce the transmission of respiratory infectious diseases such as COVID-19
    (South African Medical Journal, 2020-10-12) Chetty, T.; Daniels, B.B.; Ngandu, N.K.; Goga, A.; Terusha Chetty: Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Durban, South Africa.
    Background: Travel screening for infectious diseases is often implemented to delay or prevent the entry of infected persons to a country/area. Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of different point-of-entry screening strategies in achieving a reduction in imported COVID-19 transmission. Methods: A rapid evidence review was conducted, systematically searching PubMed and Google Scholar and grey literature on 27 March 2020. Results: We screened 1 194 records. Nine potential full-text articles were assessed for eligibility and included. Three articles investigated the effectiveness of entry-based thermal and body temperature scanning. Entry-based infrared thermal or body temperature scanning for COVID-19 was unlikely to be effective. Two systematic reviews found no additional benefit of travel restrictions/screening. In a COVID-19 modelling study, airport screening was not effective, with exit and entry thermal scanning identifying half and missing almost half of infected travellers. Two other modelling studies found that entry-based travel screening would achieve only modest delays in community transmission, while international travel quarantine could reduce case importations by 80%. Conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to support entry and exit screening at points of entry, as these strategies detect just over half of the infected cases, missing almost half at entry points. The benefits of airport screening therefore need to be context specific and weighed against the resources and cost of implementation, the contribution of imported cases to total cases, and the benefits of identifying 50% of cases in the South African context with the country's high HIV and tuberculosis prevalence and limited resources to deal with a pandemic of this nature.
  • Publication
    Stakeholders’ perceptions of child and adolescent mental health services in a South African district: A qualitative study
    (BMC, 2020-10-02) Babatunde, G.B.; van Rensburg, A.J.; Bhana, A.; Petersen, I.
    Background: In order to develop a district child and adolescent mental health (CAMH) plan, it is vital to engage with a range of stakeholders involved in providing CAMH services, given the complexities associated with delivering such services. Hence this study sought to explore multisectoral dynamics in providing CAMH care in one resource-constrained South African district as a case study, towards informing the development of a model for district mental health plan and generating lessons for mental health systems strengthening to support CAMH services using the Health Systems Dynamics (HSD) framework. HSD provides a suitable structure for analysing interactions between different elements within the health system and other sectors. Methods: Purposive sampling of 60 key informants was conducted to obtain an in-depth understanding of various stakeholders' experiences and perceptions of the available CAMH services in the district. The participants include stakeholders from the Departments of Health (DoH), Basic Education (DBE), community-based/non-governmental organizations and caregivers of children receiving CAMH care. The data was categorized according to the elements of the HSD framework. Results: The HSD framework helped in identifying the components of the health systems that are necessary for CAMH service delivery. At a district level, the shortage of human resources, un-coordinated CAMH management system, lack of intersectoral collaboration and the low priority given to the CAMH system negatively impacts on the service providers' experiences of providing CAMH services. Services users' experiences of access to available CAMH services was negatively impacted by financial restrictions, low mental health literacy and stigmatization. Nevertheless, the study participants perceived the available CAMH specialists to be competent and dedicated to delivering quality services but will benefit from systems strengthening initiatives that can expand the workforce and equip non-specialists with the required skills, resources and adequate coordination. Conclusions: The need to develop the capacity of all the involved stakeholders in relation to CAMH services was imperative in the district. The need to create a mental health outreach team and equip teachers and caregivers with skills required to promote mental wellbeing, promptly identify CAMH conditions, refer appropriately and adhere to a management regimen was emphasized.
  • Publication
    Tracking health commodity inventory and notifying stock levels via mobile devices: A mixed methods systematic review (Review)
    (Wiley, 2020-10-28) Agarwal, S.; Glenton, C.; Henschke, N.; Tamrat, T.; Bergman, H.; Fønhus, M.S.; Mehl, G.L.; Lewin, S.; Simon Lewin, Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa
    Background: Health systems need timely and reliable access to essential medicines and health commodities, but problems with access are common in many settings. Mobile technologies offer potential low-cost solutions to the challenge of drug distribution and commodity availability in primary healthcare settings. However, the evidence on the use of mobile devices to address commodity shortages is sparse, and offers no clear way forward. Objectives: Primary objective To assess the effects of strategies for notifying stock levels and digital tracking of healthcare-related commodities and inventory via mobile devices across the primary healthcare system Secondary objectives To describe what mobile device strategies are currently being used to improve reporting and digital tracking of health commodities To identify factors influencing the implementation of mobile device interventions targeted at reducing stockouts of health commodities SEARCH METHODS: We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE Ovid, Embase Ovid, Global Index Medicus WHO, POPLINE K4Health, and two trials registries in August 2019. We also searched Epistemonikos for related systematic reviews and potentially eligible primary studies. We conducted a grey literature search using, and issued a call for papers through popular digital health communities of practice. Finally, we conducted citation searches of included studies. We searched for studies published after 2000, in any language. Selection criteria: For the primary objective, we included individual and cluster-randomised trials, controlled before-after studies, and interrupted time series studies. For the secondary objectives, we included any study design, which could be quantitative, qualitative, or descriptive, that aimed to describe current strategies for commodity tracking or stock notification via mobile devices; or aimed to explore factors that influenced the implementation of these strategies, including studies of acceptability or feasibility. We included studies of all cadres of healthcare providers, including lay health workers, and others involved in the distribution of health commodities (administrative staff, managerial and supervisory staff, dispensary staff); and all other individuals involved in stock notification, who may be based in a facility or a community setting, and involved with the delivery of primary healthcare services. We included interventions aimed at improving the availability of health commodities using mobile devices in primary healthcare settings. For the primary objective, we included studies that compared health commodity tracking or stock notification via mobile devices with standard practice. For the secondary objectives, we included studies of health commodity tracking and stock notification via mobile device, if we could extract data relevant to our secondary objectives. Data collection and analysis: For the primary objective, two authors independently screened all records, extracted data from the included studies, and assessed the risk of bias. For the analyses of the primary objectives, we reported means and proportions where appropriate. We used the GRADE approach to assess the certainty of the evidence, and prepared a 'Summary of findings' table. For the secondary objective, two authors independently screened all records, extracted data from the included studies, and applied a thematic synthesis approach to synthesise the data. We assessed methodological limitation using the Ways of Evaluating Important and Relevant Data (WEIRD) tool. We used the GRADE-CERQual approach to assess our confidence in the evidence, and prepared a 'Summary of qualitative findings' table. Main results: Primary objective For the primary objective, we included one controlled before-after study conducted in Malawi. We are uncertain of the effect of cStock plus enhanced management, or cStock plus effective product transport on the availability of commodities, quality and timeliness of stock management, and satisfaction and acceptability, because we assessed the evidence as very low-certainty. The study did not report on resource use or unintended consequences. Secondary objective For the secondary objectives, we included 16 studies, using a range of study designs, which described a total of eleven interventions. All studies were conducted in African (Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Zambia, Liberia, Uganda, South Africa, and Rwanda) and Asian (Pakistan and India) countries. Most of the interventions aimed to make data about stock levels and potential stockouts visible to managers, who could then take corrective action to address them. We identified several factors that may influence the implementation of stock notification and tracking via mobile device. These include challenges tied to infrastructural issues, such as poor access to electricity or internet, and broader health systems issues, such as drug shortages at the national level which cannot be mitigated by interventions at the primary healthcare level (low confidence). Several factors were identified as important, including strong partnerships with local authorities, telecommunication companies, technical system providers, and non-governmental organizations (very low confidence); availability of stock-level data at all levels of the health system (low confidence); the role of supportive supervision and responsive management (moderate confidence); familiarity and training of health workers in the use of the digital devices (moderate confidence); availability of technical programming expertise for the initial development and ongoing maintenance of the digital systems (low confidence); incentives, such as phone credit for personal use, to support regular use of the system (low confidence); easy-to-use systems built with user participation (moderate confidence); use of basic or personal mobile phones to support easier adoption (low confidence); consideration for software features, such as two-way communication (low confidence); and data availability in an easy-to-use format, such as an interactive dashboard (moderate confidence). Authors' conclusions: We need more, well-designed, controlled studies comparing stock notification and commodity management via mobile devices with paper-based commodity management systems. Further studies are needed to understand the factors that may influence the implementation of such interventions, and how implementation considerations differ by variations in the intervention.
  • Publication
    Bacille calmette‐guerin (BCG) vaccine for preventing SARS‐CoV‐2 infection or improving COVID‐19 outcome: evidence review of clinical benefits and harms.
    (Wiley & Sons, 2020-05-27) Chersich, M.F.; Kredo, T.; Rees, H.; Jon J van Rood Center for Clinical Transfusion Research, Sanquin/Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, Netherlands.
    Background: Convalescent plasma and hyperimmune immunoglobulin may reduce mortality in patients with respiratory virus diseases, and are currently being investigated in trials as a potential therapy for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). A thorough understanding of the current body of evidence regarding the benefits and risks is required. OBJECTIVES: To assess whether convalescent plasma or hyperimmune immunoglobulin transfusion is effective and safe in the treatment of people with COVID-19. Search methods: The protocol was pre-published with the Center for Open Science and can be accessed here: We searched the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 Global Research Database, MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane COVID-19 Study Register, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Research Article Database and trials registries to identify ongoing studies and results of completed studies on 23 April 2020 for case-series, cohort, prospectively planned, and randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Selection criteria: We followed standard Cochrane methodology and performed all steps regarding study selection in duplicate by two independent review authors (in contrast to the recommendations of the Cochrane Rapid Reviews Methods Group). We included studies evaluating convalescent plasma or hyperimmune immunoglobulin for people with COVID-19, irrespective of disease severity, age, gender or ethnicity. We excluded studies including populations with other coronavirus diseases (severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)) and studies evaluating standard immunoglobulins. Data collection and analysis: We followed recommendations of the Cochrane Rapid Reviews Methods Group regarding data extraction and assessment. To assess bias in included studies, we used the assessment criteria tool for observational studies, provided by Cochrane Childhood Cancer. We rated the certainty of evidence using the GRADE approach for the following outcomes: all-cause mortality at hospital discharge, improvement of clinical symptoms (7, 15, and 30 days after transfusion), grade 3 and 4 adverse events, and serious adverse events. MAIN RESULTS: We included eight studies (seven case-series, one prospectively planned, single-arm intervention study) with 32 participants, and identified a further 48 ongoing studies evaluating convalescent plasma (47 studies) or hyperimmune immunoglobulin (one study), of which 22 are randomised. Overall risk of bias of the eight included studies was high, due to: study design; small number of participants; poor reporting within studies; and varied type of participants with different severities of disease, comorbidities, and types of previous or concurrent treatments, including antivirals, antifungals or antibiotics, corticosteroids, hydroxychloroquine and respiratory support. We rated all outcomes as very low certainty, and we were unable to summarise numerical data in any meaningful way. As we identified case-series studies only, we reported results narratively. Effectiveness of convalescent plasma for people with COVID-19 The following reported outcomes could all be related to the underlying natural history of the disease or other concomitant treatment, rather than convalescent plasma. All-cause mortality at hospital discharge All studies reported mortality. All participants were alive at the end of the reporting period, but not all participants had been discharged from hospital by the end of the study (15 participants discharged, 6 still hospitalised, 11 unclear). Follow-up ranged from 3 days to 37 days post-transfusion. We do not know whether convalescent plasma therapy affects mortality (very low-certainty evidence). Improvement of clinical symptoms (assessed by respiratory support) Six studies, including 28 participants, reported the level of respiratory support required; most participants required respiratory support at baseline. All studies reported improvement in clinical symptoms in at least some participants. We do not know whether convalescent plasma improves clinical symptoms (very low-certainty evidence). Time to discharge from hospital Six studies reported time to discharge from hospital for at least some participants, which ranged from four to 35 days after convalescent plasma therapy. Admission on the intensive care unit (ICU) Six studies included patients who were critically ill. At final follow-up the majority of these patients were no longer on the ICU or no longer required mechanical ventilation. Length of stay on the ICU Only one study (1 participant) reported length of stay on the ICU. The individual was discharged from the ICU 11 days after plasma transfusion. Safety of convalescent plasma for people with COVID-19 Grade 3 or 4 adverse events The studies did not report the grade of adverse events after convalescent plasma transfusion. Two studies reported data relating to participants who had experienced adverse events, that were presumably grade 3 or 4. One case study reported a participant who had moderate fever (38.9 °C). Another study (3 participants) reported a case of severe anaphylactic shock. Four studies reported the absence of moderate or severe adverse events (19 participants). We are very uncertain whether or not convalescent plasma therapy affects the risk of moderate to severe adverse events (very low-certainty evidence). Serious adverse events One study (3 participants) reported one serious adverse event. As described above, this individual had severe anaphylactic shock after receiving convalescent plasma. Six studies reported that no serious adverse events occurred. We are very uncertain whether or not convalescent plasma therapy affects the risk of serious adverse events (very low-certainty evidence). AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: We identified eight studies (seven case-series and one prospectively planned single-arm intervention study) with a total of 32 participants (range 1 to 10). Most studies assessed the risks of the intervention; reporting two adverse events (potentially grade 3 or 4), one of which was a serious adverse event. We are very uncertain whether convalescent plasma is effective for people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 as studies reported results inconsistently, making it difficult to compare results and to draw conclusions. We identified very low-certainty evidence on the effectiveness and safety of convalescent plasma therapy for people with COVID-19; all studies were at high risk of bias and reporting quality was low. No RCTs or controlled non-randomised studies evaluating benefits and harms of convalescent plasma have been completed. There are 47 ongoing studies evaluating convalescent plasma, of which 22 are RCTs, and one trial evaluating hyperimmune immunoglobulin. We will update this review as a living systematic review, based on monthly searches in the above mentioned databases and registries. These updates are likely to show different results to those reported here.