Published: Aug. 11, 2011

Student studies effects of anti-tuberculosis drugs in South Africa

Contact(s): Erica Shekell Office of Communications and Brand Strategy erica.shekell@cabs.msu.edu

EAST LANSING, Mich. — About one-third of the world’s population is currently infected with the tuberculosis bacterium, according to the World Health Organization — and one MSU student is doing something about it.

Ana Maria Kelly, a doctoral student in the College of Nursing, recently traveled to South Africa with a team from Johns Hopkins University to conduct pre-dissertation research on multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

“In the case of regular TB, treatment takes about six months, but in the case of MDR-TB, treatment takes two long years,” Kelly said.

TB is an infectious bacterial disease that most commonly affects the lungs. It may be passed to others through droplets from the throat and lungs — by coughing, sneezing, spitting or talking.

About 1.7 million people died from TB in 2009, and the highest number of deaths was in Africa, according to the WHO. MDR-TB is a dangerous form of the disease, in which the bacteria are resistant to two of the most powerful drugs used to treat TB.

To make things even more complex, many people who have TB are also infected with HIV, because HIV compromises the immune system and makes people more susceptible to TB. This makes treatment even more complicated for individuals with both infections.

Kelly presented at a workshop in South Africa for nurses caring for patients who are co-infected with MDR-TB and HIV. She also began conducting research on the psychiatric side effects of the drugs used to treat these patients.

“For example, Efavirenz is a first-line drug for HIV, but it can have deleterious effects on the central nervous system,” Kelly said. “Add that to Terizidone, an MDR-TB drug which may cause psychosis or suicidal ideations, and you can see how the psychiatric side effects could become such a big problem for co-infected patients.”

Kelly was in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province, South Africa from May 3 to June 3 conducting her pre-dissertation research. She will be presenting her findings at the annual Association of Nurses in AIDS Care Conference this November.

Within the next year, Kelly will return to KZN, South Africa to begin collecting her dissertation data on patients who develop psychosis as a side effect of MDR-TB treatment.

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Click to enlarge

Ana Maria Kelly, a doctoral student in the College of Nursing. Courtesy photo.

Ana Maria Kelly, a doctoral student in the College of Nursing. Courtesy photo.

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Richard Lunt, assistant professor in MSU's College of Engineering, is the recipient of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Award in Environmental Chemistry. The highly competitive $120,000 grant adds a postdoctoral researcher to Lunt’s research team for two years.
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