LUBBOCK, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — One doctor from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is making vaccine history, developing a vaccine that will treat a deadly tropical parasitic disease.
According to a news release from the TTUHSC, Afzal A. Siddiqui, the director of the Center for Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease and chair of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Microbiology at the TTUHSC School of Medicine, developed the SchistoShield Vaccine, one that fights schistosomiasis.
Schistosomiasis, a disease found in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean that is also known as ‘snail fever’ is caused by parasitic flatworms which inhabit contaminated freshwater. The release said this disease can lead to liver damage, kidney failure, bladder cancer, infertility and death, impacting around 250 million people.
Siddiqui, who is also the Grover E. Murray Distinguished Professor in the college’s School of Medicine, started the development process of the vaccine in 1991. Over the years, Siddiqui has received funding from various places for the development of the vaccine, including the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
According to the release, one of Siddiqui’s goals was for this specific vaccine treatment to be produced for humanitarian purposes rather than for profit.
“This was a real effort on the part of TTU to get this thing out and not have any royalty or anything of that sort,” Siddiqui said in the release. “I’m not getting anything; the university and the system [aren’t] getting anything with regards to dollars. We just want to get this thing out, and if it helps, that’s what we would like to see.”
During the upcoming Phase 1 trial, officials will evaluate the vaccine’s safety in 45 adults between 18 and 55 years old. Officials said the study is expected to run through April 2024. Additional trials will also take place in Madagascar and other parts of Africa.
If the trials go well, Siddiqui said in the release that the vaccine could be ready for distribution in five to 10 years.
“It’s a long process; it takes decades to find out the effect of the vaccine in these kinds of situations because we’re talking about places like Africa [where] you not only have this disease, but you have so many others,” Siddiqui said in the release. “You see those kids with bulging bellies; they are carrying not only one, but several parasites. We are trying to fix one, but there are others, so unless you fix all of the other parasites with vaccines or some other approach, we wouldn’t know the real impact. But we are getting into this process where, little by little, we’re trying to eliminate these diseases as we get more resources to gain more knowledge.”