An oil and gas-funded malaria doctor, who lectured at Aberdeen University for 10 years, has urged people not to “panic” about the coronavirus.
Dr Peter Billingsley, now a health executive in the US for malaria research firm Sanaria, said he believes a vaccine for the virus is on its way, but added that its “impossible” to say when.
He claimed malaria and the flu are much more deadly worldwide.
Dr Billingsley, whose work on malaria in West Africa is funded by Marathon Oil and Noble Energy, said: “I don’t think it’s something to panic over.
“People are aware of the virus and it has spread. It’s getting an awful lot of publicity because it’s a new disease but in truth more people die every day from malaria than have died so far from the coronavirus as it stands right now.
“More people have died in Yemen this year from flu than from the coronavirus.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 43,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus globally – yet only one person has died outside of China.
But the director general of WHO warned this week that the world may “only be seeing the tip of the iceberg”.
Dr Billingsley served as a senior lecturer and head of Zoology at Aberdeen University between 1995 and 2006.
He said that the spread of the virus is “possible” if it takes hold in less developed nations, such as Africa.
However, as reports revealed 100 people have been tested for the virus in Scotland, Dr Billingsley, who is currently working on the PfSPZ Vaccine for malaria in Equatorial Guinea, said that with some victims surviving the disease there is the potential for a serum.
He added: “I think there will be some vaccine for coronavirus to be created because there are people in China who really know how to do this work, but I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess at the timeline.”