Typhoid conjugate vaccine effectiveness in Malawi: evaluation of a test-negative design using randomised, controlled clinical trial data


Background: Typhoid conjugate vaccines are being introduced in low-income and middle-income countries to prevent typhoid illness in children. Vaccine effectiveness studies assess vaccine performance after introduction. The test-negative design is a commonly used method to estimate vaccine effectiveness that has not been applied to typhoid vaccines because of concerns over blood culture insensitivity. The overall aim of the study was to evaluate the appropriateness of using a test-negative design to assess typhoid Vi polysaccharide-tetanus toxoid conjugate vaccine (Vi-TT) effectiveness using a gold standard randomised controlled trial database.

Methods: Using blood culture data from a randomised controlled trial of Vi-TT in Malawi, we simulated a test-negative design to derive vaccine effectiveness estimates using three different approaches and compared these to randomised trial efficacy results. In the randomised trial, 27 882 children aged 9 months to 12 years were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive a single dose of Vi-TT or meningococcal capsular group A conjugate vaccine between Feb 21 and Sept 27, 2018, and were followed up for blood culture-confirmed typhoid fever until Sept 30, 2021.

Findings: For all three test-negative design approaches, vaccine effectiveness estimates (test-negative design A, 80·3% [95% CI 66·2 to 88·5] vs test-negative design B, 80·5% [66·5 to 88·6] vs test-negative design C, 80·4% [66·9 to 88·4]) were almost identical to the randomised trial results (80·4% [95% CI 66·4 to 88·5]). Receipt of Vi-TT did not affect the risk of non-typhoid fever (vaccine efficacy against non-typhoid fever -0·4% [95% CI -4·9 to 3·9] vs -1% [-5·6 to 3·3] vs -2·5% [-6·4 to 1·3] for test-negative design A, test-negative design B, and test-negative design C, respectively).

Interpretation: This study validates the test-negative design core assumption for typhoid vaccine effectiveness estimation and shows the accuracy and precision of the estimates compared with the randomised controlled trial. These results show that the test-negative design is suitable for assessing typhoid conjugate vaccine effectiveness in post-introduction studies using blood culture surveillance.

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