Nurse who vanished from malaria drug trial is found in Netherlands

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The Independent Online

A human guinea pig who sparked a major manhunt after he went missing earlier this month while taking part in a pioneering trial to find a vaccine for malaria was in hospital in the Netherlands last night.

Matthew Lloyd, a nurse at Southampton General Hospital, contacted local police and rang his parents in Somerset to tell them that he was safe and well before seeking medical attention.

Police have refused to reveal Mr Lloyd's location and the Foreign Office said that he had not sought consular assistance.

It was feared that the 35-year-old former sailor might be carrying the potentially fatal disease, which kills one million people each year. He rang in sick from his hospital job prior to an appointment 13 days ago at Oxford University's world-renowned Edward Jenner Institute to complete the trial, which he failed to attend.

His sudden disappearance led to fears his life could be at risk unless he received urgent medication to counteract the falciparum strain of the disease, with which he had been deliberately infected.

Six of the seven people taking part in the programme, which is carried out under strict conditions of anonymity, had shown symptoms as a result of their exposure to the disease.

Mr Lloyd's mother, Doreen Holland, 64, who made a number of emotional appeals urging her son to come forward, said he had contacted her by telephone. "He told us he was sorry – but I said don't apologise, you are not wanted for any crimes," she said.

Mr Lloyd, from Southampton, Hampshire, had no known links in Holland and his movements remain a mystery, police said.

A Hampshire police spokeswoman said that the investigation was now being phased out. "He has been admitted to hospital for a medical assessment and any relevant treatment he may require. We are currently awaiting updates from the Dutch medical profession and at this time, we do not yet know whether he has contracted malaria," she said.

Mr Lloyd was spotted on CCTV in King's Cross, London, and police suspected he had travelled abroad after they discovered that he had his passport and £900 in cash in his possession. He had also taken out cash from machines in Milton Keynes and Birmingham.

In a statement released by police during the search, Mr Lloyd's parents described him as a "responsible, ambitious and focused man". Mrs Holland said she feared that the drug trial may have left her son confused, prompting him to walk out of the job he loved, specialising in infectious diseases at Southampton General Hospital.

Police had smashed down the door of his one-bedroom flat and examined his laptop computer for clues.

The Edward Jenner Institute, which is funded by, among others, the Gates Foundation, founded by the Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, has been searching for a potential vaccine for malaria for the past decade.

Its successful discovery would prove one of the greatest public health breakthroughs of the 21st century, with 500 million cases of malaria occurring every year.