Med student receives award as she tries to predict when deadly infection will strike

By: Trishna Begam Email
By: Trishna Begam Email

News 12 This Morning / Thursday, July 19, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A student at the Medical College of Georgia at GHSU is putting thousands of dollars in grant money toward more research in predicting a deadly infection. The research could help save the lives of hundreds of patients.

At just 21 years old, Puja Chebrolu is the proud recipient of a student research fellowship handed out to only 47 medical students across the country. Chebrolu was awarded $5,000 to forge ahead with her project.

"If we find something significant, a lot of people can use it," she said.

The grant money helped Chebrolu look through the world's largest federal database in kidney failure information.

With the help of an epidemiologist and kidney specialist, she's trying to help predict why some patients get infected with something called bacteremia.

"Bugs have always interested me," Chebrolu said. "So the bacteremia part really drew me in. It's a very expensive infection to treat, and it's very lethal as well."

She says it can be a hard disease to catch, but by looking at different factors like whether the patient has diabetes or if they've have Hepatitis C, she's hoping to find a common thread in the last three years of data.

"It turns out that hepatitis is fairly common in dialysis patients, and it looks like it maybe a risk factor for bacteremia," said Dr. Stan Nahman, a nephrologist.

Finding the pattern could help doctors save more lives. That's why Chebrolu has spent most of her summer examining the data compiled from hospital databases.

"We may be able to treat or address those conditions before the patients become bacteremic," Nahman said.

It all leads back to this 21-year-old's desire to help a large community.

"I want to have a career that intersects in public health with medicine," she added.

The database used for her research includes 600,000 patients and more than 13 million hospitalization records.


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