Week 3 : June 16h - June 22nd, 2014

Research Related

This week, the MHIRT students began to settle into a routine in the laboratory, but each still had unique and interesting experience. 

In Bangkok, Michellei continues her search of viruses in mosquitoes.  She has many mosquitoes to dissect and doesn’t anticipate running out of work anytime soon.  She reports that “Right now the main thing slowing me down is how tiny the Ades mosquitoes are!  So hard to just cut off the legs/wings without disturbing the probosis, and things get messy when they have a blood meal prior to their deaths.”  Good luck M.  In contrast, there are no adult mosquitoes to dissect in Yaounde.  Domenick reports that it remains difficult to capture adults in the rainy season and the group is having difficult rearing the larvae and pupae they collected into adults.  Alas, woes of a scientist.  Remember, if it were easy, we would have already done it.

Kriszel continues to search for enteric viruses in humans and domestic animal samples, specifically looking for Norovirus GI, Norovirus GII, Group A rotavirus and enteric adenovirus.  Yea!  She found some by PCR, but now needs to confirm her results.  The ultimate goal is to determine the prevalence of these viruses in the population and how the viruses spread.  Kris reports that she is trying to learn a few Thai words and is enjoying helping her mentor improve his enunciation of English words, like teaching him the fine distinction between boat, both and bought and the use of words like sell, sale, live and life.  Keep the cultural exchange going!

Last Tuesday, Chris spent the day labeling test tubes in the laboratory.  He reports “It took the entire day, but it was meditative.”  Late in the afternoon, Chris and his mentor, Kenji, assayed the plasma sample from children with fevers for C-reactive Protein (CRP), a potential biomarker that may be help distinguish between patients who have malaria and those who have dengue.  The assay was completed around 9:0pm, and smile, the kit seemed to have worked well.  Now, they need to analyze the data to see if CRP is a good biomarker or not. (Stay Tuned). 

Mateo has been working with Dr. Sam Yunga to see if THf cells are present in cord blood of women who are infected with malaria.  One problem: they need cord blood from malaria-infected mothers who deliver at one of the nearby clinics. Somewhat of a waiting game.  Tuesday, they were excited because a woman in labor consented to participate.  Unfortunately, she was malaria negative, so they couldn’t study her.  The woman was in a late stage of labor and Mateo wrote, “And, within a few minutes, the baby boy was born. ... It was surreal – unforgettable.”  So he may not have gotten the clinical sample he needs, but at least he had a memorable experience.”

Meanwhile in Thailand, Kendrick had a good week.  After spending Monday and Tuesday dealing with his mis-having computer, he completed two spread sheets for his mentor, Dr. Nittaya. When he ran data from HIV patients through SPSS software, he found a number of entry errors, mainly missing information which may restrict sample selection. [Kendick, I’m impressed you can run SPSS, wow!] Missing data is not un-common in databases, but can be a real problem for biostatisticians.  Kendrick made progress with the writing of his opinion piece, which includes suggestions for future research on HIV and HPV.  He shadowed a doctor at SEARCH for follow up with patients with acute HIV and says “I learned that some people start their antiretroviral therapy (ART) treatment at the beginning of an HIV infection, some of them do not develop the antibodies against the infection so when the infection is cleared, a few cases seemed as if they didn’t have HIV although an undetectable viral load is possible.”  Ken finished the week by going into the operating room at Chulalongkorn University Hospital and observing a lymph node biopsy from the pelvic area of an acute HIV patient.  “Wearing scrubs and being just two feet away from the surgical table ...... .”  Another unique experience.

In Cameroon, Shayne was finally cleared to work in the delivery room at Central Hospital, where she is helping Dr. Anna Babakhanyan collect placentas from women who are HIV+ and HIV–.  The goal is to identify changes in the placenta that reduce the birth weight of newborns.  Some nights are quiet in the delivery room, but not Shayne’s first night.  Within the first hour, a 19 year old mother gave birth and Shayne says “The very first image that started off the night for me was the top of the baby’s head just peeking out...”  An additional 5 babies were born that night, so the team had their hands busy collecting samples.  Since Shayne cannot work with human blood products, she assists with weighing the placenta (in a sealed bag), extracting information from the woman’s health records, measuring the head circumference of the newborn, labeling tubes, keeping samples straight, and remembering the women to thank them the following day for participating.  While working with a resident in OB/GYN, Shayne learned a lot and says “The human body is certainly a work of wonder - even more apparent in the act of giving birth! I didn’t know that the baby, on its own, will turn its body sideways so that the shoulders can go through the birth canal.  Dr. Tompen said that sometimes the nurse or midwife would facilitate this “turn” if only to quicken the delivery for the sake of the mother if she has some sort of cardiac condition or other complications. Otherwise, the baby knows how to turn sideways on its own!:)” Shayne will be spending several nights a week in the delivery room and assisting in in vitro studies in the laboratory during the day.


Journal Club and seminars

All MHIRT students are participating in seminar and/or journal clubs weeks.  So far, Kriszel and Michellei have presented research papers and Chris, Mateo and Domenick have shared their research topics.  Keep up the good work.

Cultural experiences: A picture is worth a 1,000 words (and this newsletter is already too long).  Saturday 21 June Kendrick, Michellei and Kriszel visited the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, the Giant Swing, and the Temple of the Golden Mount.  Thanks for the great photos.

The group in Cameroon traveled to Bamenda, about a 6 hours drive north of Yaounde where they visited Kenji’s family and friends and relatives of Professor Leke. They were able to see some of the country-side in Cameroon. We’ll post some of their pictures next week.