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Student's Tuberculosis Research in Kenya Is Subject of Upcoming Journal Article

Daniel Low ’11 spent summer 2009 researching tuberculosis in Kenya, which has one of the world’s highest TB rates, with more than 130,000 new cases and 24,000 TB-related deaths reported annually.

Funded through the Pomona Summer Undergraduate Research Program, Low worked John Kah, a University of Washington medical student, to analyze Ministry of Health data and evaluate factors associated with poor TB treatment outcomes, at a large provincial hospital on the coast of Kenya.

Results thus far show that the majority of TB patients are co-infected with HIV, despite HIV prevalence being greatly reduced in recent years. According to Low, “Co-infected individuals face high risk of poor recovery even with treatment. It is unclear whether this low recovery rate is because the treatment is not working to cure TB, or whether there are other unidentified illnesses preventing proper recovery. Due to this uncertainty, improved TB diagnostics, treatment and retention in care are needed to improve outcomes in Kenya, particularly among HIV-1 co-infected individuals.

An article about the study, co-authored by Low, Kah, Dr. Matt Arentz and Dr. Judd Walson, has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Investigative Medicine. The results will also be presented at the Western Students Medical Research Conference in January 2010 in Carmel, California.

Low, an anthropology major from Kirkland, Washington, became interested in medicine and the unequal distribution of medical resources during high school.

“It boggles my mind that millions of people die every year from known, curable diseases,” explains Low. “TB is the perfect example…. While it is virtually absent in wealthy communities, it runs rampant throughout poor, destitute areas…. TB specifically interests me because despite its prevalence and mortality rates, it is often neglected.”

Low first traveled to Africa in early summer 2009 as part of a project providing HIV/AIDS education in Babati, Tanzania, with the NGO Support for International Change. He is currently studying abroad at the School for International Training in Kenya and researching the health and education problems of street children in Mombassa. His career goal is to work in sub-Saharan Africa as a doctor.

Pomona College, founded in 1887, is located in Claremont, CA, approximately 35 miles east of the City of Los Angeles. Its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of student research and involvement opportunities.