Staff Member’s Research Investigates the Immune Response to Cryptococcal Meningitis
Senior pathologist and lecturer in UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences Dr Prathna Bhola, who is based at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital, was awarded a PhD for her research on the immune response to cryptococcal meningitis.
The study focused on the reasons for a relative paucity of neutrophils in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) compared to bacterial meningitis and found that downregulation of neutrophil recruitment occurs into the CSF of patients with cryptococcal meningitis.
‘I feel very relieved and satisfied at having completed this degree. I am very grateful to my supervisor, Professor Adriaan Willem Sturm and my family for their overwhelming support and faith in me. I would like to pursue further research in my field as well as supervise and assist other students interested in research. I wanted to expand my knowledge in Medical Microbiology, and gain experience in novel research methods in laboratory medicine,’ said Bhola.
According to Bhola, previous studies have shown that cryptococcal meningitis is an important opportunistic infection in immunocompromised patients. It is well established that this form of meningitis is characterised by a relative paucity of neutrophils in the CSF compared to bacterial meningitis.
The challenges she encountered included recruiting patients, accessing laboratory material due to international stock-out, and many experimental failures. Nevertheless, she persevered and never gave up. She said her study experience was a pleasant one as she received support from the University community.
During her spare time, she enjoys reading, listening to music, and hiking in the Drakensberg. Her favourite dish is a good Italian pasta.
Words: Lihle Sosibo