The whip scorpion, or amblypygi, opened the world of ecology to Ms. Hanna Ehrlich when she went to Costa Rica for an undergraduate research internship. Likewise, the world of epidemiology opened to her while studying cholera in south India with a modeling group from Tufts.
Now a fourth year doctoral student, Ms. Ehrlich has combined these interests and is working in Professor Sunil Parikh’s lab and studying malaria surveillance and drug resistance. She chose to pursue a doctorate in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases rather than veterinary medicine as she’d originally planned to foster the broad interdisciplinary perspective essential to solving health issues at the population level.
Antimicrobial resistance is a particularly tricky problem with malarial drugs. Indeed, there is only one effective drug left on the market for the mosquito-borne disease, artemisinin, and it is the most widely-administered drug worldwide. Since 2006, researchers have begun to see drug resistance emerging against artemisinin in southeast Asia. If that spreads to Africa, where 90 percent of deaths from malaria occur, it would be disastrous, says Ms. Ehrlich.
Her work focuses on improving the efficiency of surveillance systems that track the spread of drug resistant malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. She uses creative field approaches as well as spatial modeling to improve monitoring efforts and strengthen inter-regional collaborations. Ms. Ehrlich’s research additionally aims to understand some of the risk factors in transmitting drug resistant malaria strains in Burkina Faso.Tags: Friday Letter Submission, Publish on December 20