Participant verification: Prevention of co-enrolment in clinical trials in South Africa

Charlene Harichund, Kumeshini Haripersad, Gita Ramjee


Background. As KwaZulu-Natal Province is the epicentre of the HIV epidemic in both South Africa (SA) and globally, it is an ideal location to conduct HIV prevention and therapeutic trials. Numerous prevention trials are currently being conducted here; the potential for participant co-enrolment may compromise the validity of these studies and is therefore of great concern.

Aim. To report the development and feasibility of a digital, fingerprint-based participant identification method to prevent co-enrolment at multiple clinical trial sites.

Methods. The Medical Research Council (MRC) HIV Prevention Research Unit (HPRU) developed the Biometric Co-enrolment Prevention System (BCEPS), which uses fingerprint-based biometric technology to identify participants. A trial website was used to determine the robustness and usability of the system. After successful testing, the BCEPS was piloted in July 2010 across 7 HPRU clinical research sites. The BCEPS was pre-loaded with study names and clinical trial sites, with new participant information loaded at first visit to a trial site.

Results. We successfully implemented the BCEPS at the 7 HPRU sites. Using the BCEPS, we performed real-time ‘flagging’ of women who were already enrolled in another study as they entered a trial at an HPRU site and, where necessary, excluded them from participation on site. 

Conclusion. This system has promise in reducing co-enrolment in clinical trials and represents a valuable tool for future implementation by all groups conducting trials. The MRC is currently co-ordinating this effort with clinical trial sites nationally.

Authors' affiliations

Charlene Harichund, HIV Prevention Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Durban, South Africa

Kumeshini Haripersad, HIV Prevention Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Durban, South Africa

Gita Ramjee, HIV Prevention Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Durban, South Africa

Full Text



Co-enrolment; clinical trial participants; HIV; clinical trials

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2013;103(7):491-493. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.6674

Article History

Date submitted: 2013-01-08
Date published: 2013-05-15

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