UA student's trip to Peru 'sobering,' but inspiring

By John McMahon

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Are you majoring in biology or planning a career as a doctor, yet it just doesn't seem real to you? Maybe a trip to the pampas of Peru will change all that. It did for Nina Roxas, a Microbiology Senior who traveled to Peru as part of a UA Undergraduate Biology Research Program project.

Roxas, who first submitted her proposal to UBRP's review committee in May of last year, worked for two months analyzing samples of blood serum which cause a diarrheal condition known as cyclospora cayetanensis in communities lacking adequate sanitation.

Roxas traveled to 'shanty-towns' outside Lima, Peru, where doctors from the local health organization, PRIMA, provide free medical care and take fecal samples from the children in the area.

The samples are analyzed in the hope that there will be a correlation to a similar condition known as cryptosporidium parvum. Roxas' team hopes that an exposure to the latter disorder will build up one's immunity to cyclospora cayetanensis, which can be fatal in many cases.

"It was sobering, to say the least," recounts Roxas, of her trip to the shanty towns. "I thought I had seen poverty before in big cities here [in the U.S.], but these people have just gotten electricity, have no indoor plumbing ... and the toilet is usually just a hole in the ground."

Roxas explained that the parasite causing this disorder has not been isolated, nor have researchers been able to determine how it is transmitted within an unsanitary environment. Nevertheless, it is being found more often, with recent breakouts in the eastern United States, as well as being diagnosed as a factor in several cases involving AIDS.

"I'm more driven now, because I've seen the opportunities out there," Roxas added. "The work I did helped me see the clinical and research aspects of medicine combined."

Roxas is still uncertain of her specific future goals, but hopes to begin an MD/PhD program somewhere next year.

Students interested in similar programs can contact Carol Bender at the Undergraduate Biology Research Program at 621- 9348 or stop by Life Sciences South, Room 527.

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