Fighting Dengue Fever

One of the Tropics’ most problematic medical conditions is being tackled by a James Cook University Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery student with help of the Amuthan Bursary. Aran Sandrasegaran has joined the fight against Dengue Fever early in his medical career. The sixth year student received the Bursary in 2015, initially for $1800, but the success of his work warranted continued support from JCU.

Aran’s research has focused on comparing the effectiveness of Dengue prevention through the use of ‘vector’ control methods (eradication or limitation of disease-bearing mosquitos) and vaccination. Aran’s unique combination of personal experience and ambition to follow a research-focused career path made him an ideal candidate for the bursary.

“I have always believed prevention is better than the cure. I want to be part of the rapid pace of development of vaccines and other measures for disease prevention. I felt this was something I could be passionate about. It was also a first foot in the door of `the research world’,” Aran said.

“The experiences that I have had in the developing world and on placements in remote and tropical communities have helped me to realise the importance of health prevention in under-served populations. I was especially motivated by seeing the immense damage inflicted by mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue due to pools of stagnant water when I travelled around parts of Sri Lanka with my parents after the Boxing Day Tsunami.”

Dengue fever is one of the most damaging diseases in the world.

Dengue fever is spread by mosquitoes, which carry the dengue virus.

According to Aran, Dengue Fever has a massive monetary and health impact on the tropics each year, largely due to the challenge of managing mosquitos in developing countries.

The undergraduate’s research had several areas of focus, including finding safe and sustainable vaccine candidates as well as new methods of controlling the insects.

The bursary has brought Aran’s ambitions of completing research to fruition, but he’s diversified his field, shifting to a completely difference focus for his honours project.

“My honours project is on end of life care and medical student education on end of life care,” he said.

“The medical student education side of it is something that I’ve always had an interest in because I’ve always thought that things could be done a bit better, that’s just something that I’ve always been interested in as well.”

The shift is inspired by Aran’s desire to one day teach medical students and it’s as good a start as anyone could ask for.

“I know at some point I will be involved in medical student education regardless of what specialty I do so I thought that would be a good way of at least starting in that field and then later on I could focus my research on the specialty I choose,” he said.In the future Aran is eager to do more research, especially in the area of vaccines.

In the future Aran is eager to do more research, especially in the area of vaccines.

Going forward Aran plans to broaden his horizons further, looking into oncology and how vaccines can be applied to treat cancer, as well as degenerative diseases.

“I am interested in oncology. In particular, I would be fascinated to learn more about the role of vaccine-based immunotherapies and other treatments,” he said.

“I would like to see diseases like cancer and degenerative diseases become more manageable. These diseases can be unpredictable and hopefully we will be able to offer better treatments as we do for diseases like diabetes.”

Want to be a doctor, research deadly diseases and be at the front of medical care? Explore JCU Medicine and Dentistry.

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