In 2014, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) faculty researcher Afzal A. Siddiqui, Ph.D received the school’s first research grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for his research, titled, Proof of concept trial of Sm-p80/GLA-SE schistosomiasis vaccine.
Although he has a research laboratory at the TTUHSC campus in Lubbock, Siddiqui will house a major component of his project — a fusion laboratory — at the university’s Amarillo Research Building (ARB). To mark the occasion, and to give the community an opportunity to learn more about Siddiqui’s groundbreaking research to develop a vaccine for schistosomiasis mansion,TTUHSC will host a reception at 4:30, March 25 in the second floor lobby of the ARB at 1406 S. Coulter.
“Dr. Siddiqui’s approach is to develop a vaccine that resolves the pathology,” TTUHSC President Tedd L. Mitchell, M.D., said. “This vaccine is intended to prevent infections as well as treat existing infection and has the potential to impact the lives of one billion people.” Siddiqui, a Grover E. Murray Distinguished Professor at the TTUHSC School of Medicine, has studied schistosomiasis for 20 years working to develop a vaccine. The disease, which affects more than 200 million people, is not found in the U.S. but is endemic in 74 developing countries. An additional 800 million people are at risk of contracting schistosomiasis. According to the National Institutes of Health, a person gets a schistosoma infection through contact with contaminated water. The parasite swims freely in open bodies of water. Once contact is made with humans, the parasite burrows into the skin, matures into another stage, and then migrates to the lungs and liver, where it matures into the adult form. Siddiqui said detection of calcified schistosome eggs in Egyptian mummies from the 20th dynasty (1250-1000 BC) tells us that schistosomiasis is an ancient disease. “Major pathology of schistosomiasis is due to immunological reactions to schistosome eggs trapped in tissues,” Siddiqui said. “Continuing infection causes enlargement of the liver and blood in urine. We see pictures of children from Africa with bulging bellies because of this disease.”
Despite mass treatment with drugs, infection rates continue to rise. Durable and sustained reduction in the disease spectrum and transmission can only be obtained by long-term protection through vaccination.
Siddiqui, who also serves as the director of the TTUHSC Center of Tropical Medicine & Infectious Diseases, holds several prestigious awards and appointments to local and national positions of honor, including a Fulbright Research and Teaching Scholarship for Southeast Asia. He is also is funded as a principal investigator by the National Institutes of Health and has obtained more than $4 million in peer-reviewed funding during the past five years. Before joining TTUHSC in 2000, Siddiqui served as the chief of parasite immunology at the East Tennessee State University School of Medicine and a research health scientist in the Department of Veterans Affairs. He earned B.S., M.S. and M.Phil. degrees from Aligarh University in India and his Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. His received his professional training from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morehouse College, the University of Illinois College of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health.
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