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Trust fellow awarded 2011 Prix Christophe Merieux

18 Apr, 2011
Hector Garcia

Professor Hector Garcia

Congratulations to Professor Hector ‘Hugo’ Garcia, who has been awarded the prestigious 2011 Prix Christophe Merieux by the Institut de France.

Professor Garcia is the Wellcome Trust’s first Senior Fellow in Public Health and Tropical Medicine. He works on neurocysticercosis, a widespread and serious infection of the brain caused by the larvae of the pork tapeworm, Taenia solium. Normally the adult tapeworm grows in the human gut after ingestion of undercooked infected pork containing the larvae of the tapeworm. The pig gets the cysts in the muscles when it ingests eggs passed from humans. Occasionally, humans ingest the eggs, and when larvae hatch in the gut they can burrow into the gut wall and travel into any tissue. If they reach the brain they can cause neurocysticercosis. Serious cases can result in fits and death. You can read more about his research in the Q&A we did with him last year.

Garcia and his team at UPCH Lima, Peru, together with Professor Armando Gonzalez at Universidad san Marco, Peru, were first funded by the Trust through the Wellcome Trust-Burroughs Wellcome Fund Infectious Diseases Initiative in 1999/2000. The collaboration with partners from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Keele University and the University of Melbourne published the first highly species-specific immunodiagnostic test for human T. solium taeniasis. They also reported the first genotypic variants in Peru, and indeed anywhere else in the world, with association with geographic demarcation of T. solium variants.

Building on this work Professor Marshall Lightowlers and colleagues at the University of Melbourne (now funded by the Trust) produced the world’s first highly-protective vaccine to protect against a parasitic helminth. As a result of their epidemiology and vaccine work, Garcia and Gonzalez received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to roll out a multi-action elimination programme in a region of Peru. This resulted in the previously high prevalence of cysticercosis in pigs dropping to nearly zero, breaking the cycle of infection to humans.

See also: Pork tapeworms and international fellows –­ Q&A with Hector Garcia

CORRECTIONS 19/4/2011: Final paragraph amended. It was Professor Marshall Lightowler and colleagues who produced the helminth vaccine, not the collaboration. The Gates Foundation grant was for a multi-action elimination programme, not a vaccine programme.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Hector H. Garcia permalink
    18 Apr, 2011 8:56 pm

    Thanks for your note. The vaccine reference is wrong – we did not develop the vaccine (It was prof Marshall Lightowlers at Melbourne, also now funded bythe Trust) and the Gates program is not a vaccine program, is a multi-action elimination program. Please correct these details

    Warm regards


    • 19 Apr, 2011 11:10 am

      Many thanks for pointing out the errors Hugo, I was misinformed. This has now been corrected. Congratulations again on your award!

  2. Dr Ruth Richardson, historian permalink
    26 Apr, 2011 3:50 pm

    It is splendid to see the Wellcome supporting such important work, and the Institut de France honouring it. The painstaking effort such work involves well deserves celebration, and I am so pleased to see honour going to the researcher while he is still alive to receive appreciation!
    Thank-you too, to the Wellcome team, for reporting it! It is a pleasure to read such fine news.

    • 27 Apr, 2011 3:08 pm

      Thanks for you kind words Ruth, I’m glad you enjoyed the piece! We’re hoping to highlight more researchers’ achievements in the future.


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