Afzal Siddiqui, a professor at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, is working on creating a vaccine for the parasite disease known as schistosomiasis.

Schistosomiasis is a chronic disease which affects many people in developing countries, particularly children. People become exposed through water contaminated by freshwater snails, which are known to carry the parasite.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, which, Siddiqui said, he used for some research, 779 million people are at risk for schistosomiasis. Siddiqui said he also learned Texas has the highest rates of parasitic and neglected infections in the United States.

Siddiqui lists his research interests and efforts on the HSC website and many of his listed publications have contributed to the study of parasites in some way.  

Siddiqui received the Fulbright Award recently, and he plans to travel to India to continue educating people about the parasites. He said he would have a home base in India and then go to other countries to lecture.

“They select people and give an award,” he said, “a grant and a fellowship to go to different countries, and do the lecturing, and do the research and all of that.”

He said schistosomiasis, his specialty, is present in 76 different countries, but mostly in sub-Sahara Africa.

“They get into the water supply, because there are no water treatment in those countries, at all,” he said. “You may remember seeing pictures of small kids with bulging bellies — that is because one of these parasites has done that.”

Siddiqui said people — like Dr. Steven Berk, dean of the HSC School of Medicine — who work to cure diseases that are common in African American and Hispanic American people, support the Center for Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases.

He said all of the different labs work collectively together and showed a list of people involved, including Berk, who specializes in community-acquired pneumonia and strongyloidiasis.

Siddiqui said he hopes he is able to continue to spread the word about schistosomiasis, and other deadly parasites, through the Center for Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases.

Jerrica Box, a junior speech, language and hearing sciences major from Dallas, said she has been taking classes at the HSC for the past year and has noticed progress in research.

“Everything conducted here is top of the line and the technology just keeps advancing,” she said. “So I have no doubt that Dr. Siddiqui will be able to develop a vaccine.”

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