Britt Andersen is currently attending Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) in St. Louis as an MD/PhD student. She was born in Denmark, and has always been interested in human diseases, and has also always loved to travel. Before college she volunteered for six months at a newly opened HIV/AIDS clinic in Uganda, where she was in charge of setting up the pharmacy department. She then spent the rest of the year traveling around Africa, and falling in love with the continent. Britt was an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and during this time she developed an interests in research by working in a biochemistry lab researching HIV. After college she spent six months doing research full time. She then traveled to Africa and Asia for six months before returning to the US to start medical school at WUSM.
Britt has completed the first two years of medical school and was particularly intrigued by anything related to infectious diseases. She is now in the process of completing her PhD, and her main research interest is the neglected tropical disease lymphatic filariasis. Her project is centered around a clinical trial that is currently underway in Cote d’Ivoire, and Britt plans to travel there in November of this year.
Project: "Differential gene expression in individuals with lymphatic filariasis (LF) after treatment, and the development of adverse events"
September 1, 2015 - October 31, 2015
What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
I was very pleased when I learned that I had been accepted for the prestigious Kean Fellowship. This Fellowship will allow me to travel to Cote d’Ivoire and be a part of a clinical trial to study the efficacy of different treatment regimens for lymphatic filariasis. I expect that this will be a huge experience for me. I am also looking forward to meeting the other Kean Fellows at this years ASTMH conference and discuss our different research projects.
What do you anticipate learning?
In order to begin to understand the challenges and complexities of tropical medicine, I think that it is important to experience the diseases in their natural environments. Through my Kean Fellowship I expect that I will gain insight into the challenges of conducting research in a developing country, but I also hope that I will develop to overcome such challenges. I hope to gain an understanding of why diseases that have been eradicated from our part of the world still cause severe morbidity and mortality in the developing world. Finally I anticipate that this experience will further strengthen my interest I, and awareness of the importance of tropical medicine.
What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
I am very interested in researching neglected tropical diseases, because many of these infections disproportionally affect an already poor and vulnerable population. Many of these diseases are also neglected in regards to research, and I would like to help change that. More specifically, I am very interested in lymphatic filariasis (LF) because this disease affects millions of people and cause severe morbidity. Parasites fascinate me because they are large multicellular organisms that can live within the human host, and for the majority of people they cause relatively few problems. A highly LF infected individual can have thousands of little microfilaria parasites circulating in every one milliliter of blood, and yet have no noticeable symptoms of disease. The interaction between the host immune system and the parasite is very important, and I am interested in what happens when this balance is disturbed. After treatment for LF people can develop adverse reactions, and it is believed that these reactions are caused by the immune response to dead or dying circulating microfilaria. I will collect blood samples in Cote d’Ivoire and study this phenomenon.