Former Matlock doctor heads to Brazil to tackle Zika virus

Sam Allen with minister Christine Greening last year when he received the special Ebola medal.
Sam Allen with minister Christine Greening last year when he received the special Ebola medal.

A former Matlock doctor who specialises in tropical diseases has headed to Brazil ahead of the Olympic Games to study the Zika virus.

Sam Allen, 49, who attended Highfields School and still has family in the area set off on his trip on at the weekend and will be gathering data and carrying out assessments.

Dr Allen said: “I will join a research study group in a virus-hot zone catching mosquitoes and assessing mothers and children in the run up to the opening of the Olympic Games in Rio.”

He has lived and worked in Brazil and other South American countries before, tackling many other severe disease-related issues including Ebola.

Sam believes scientific knowledge gained over the past two years in tackling the Ebola disease may now help to develop a cure for the Zika virus.

He explained: “The Zika virus is primarily a problem for pregnant females during the first trimester. This is when the neutral tube involving the brain and spinal cord of the foetus develop.

“The concern is the mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, now widely distributed across the tropics and sub tropics into temperature regions of the world.

“For the rest of us it is just a mild viral illness from which we will recover but for pregnant women it is a major concern for which there is no treatment.”

Sam, who now lives in Scotland received a medal from the PM last year for his overseas medical work has joined good friend and fellow UK specialist Dr Alex Kumar who has spent the past three weeks in north east Brazil researching the Zika virus.

They will travel on a 200km medical expedition and work with Japanese scientists who are trying to develop a fast track cure.