A microbiologist from Teziutlán, Puebla, has been recognized for his work to combat the zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.
Arturo Reyes-Sandoval, a professor and researcher at Oxford University, received a certificate of recognition from Puebla Governor José Antonio Gali for his work on vaccines against zika, dengue fever, malaria and chikungunya. He described Reyes-Sandoval as a source of “pride for the people of Puebla.”
While much of professor’s career has been focused on developing a malaria vaccine, when the 2015 zika epidemic broke out he made research into the disease a priority.
The vaccine he developed is expected to proceed to the first phase of clinical trials at the end of this year. Both the research and trials are funded by the British government.
While Brazil recorded the greatest number of victims in the epidemic, parts of Mexico were also affected and over 8,000 zika cases have been confirmed. That was extra incentive for Reyes.
“If my work can lead to something that can prevent illness, that’s one motivation. If I can do it in . . . Mexico, then the motivation is double.”
Another Puebla scientist, César López, also worked on the team that Reyes heads at the Jenner Institute, a vaccine research organization affiliated with Oxford University.
López told the news agency Conacyt Prensa that once the first phase of trials has been completed in the U.K., the second phase will be carried out on people at greatest risk or who live in areas prone to the virus.
“. . . Mexico and Brazil are countries that we are contemplating for the trials.”
One person who would have been happy for a zika vaccine is Danira Durán Hernández of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, who contracted the disease when she was 17 weeks pregnant. Despite doctors telling her that the first trimester of a pregnancy is the danger period and that her baby was growing normally, she was terrified.
“Everything you saw on the news was about babies being born with microcephaly. I’ve read that even if zika did not affect their growth, it can still affect the brain.”
While her baby daughter was born healthy, she said she would have jumped at the chance for a vaccine had one been available.
While scientists in other parts of the world are also developing zika vaccines, Reyes-Sandoval denies there is competitiveness between them. He hopes to have his on the market in the next four to five years.