On the day his research article (co-authored with Timothy Walsh) in The Lancet on the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase created a stir in the medical community in two continents, Karthikeyan Kumarasamy was honoured at home.
Madras University Vice-Chancellor G. Thiruvasagam feted Mr. Karthikeyan, a research student at the A.L. Mudaliar Post-Graduate Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, for his work on the NDM-1 bacteria gene. The VC said he congratulated Mr. Karthikeyan, who met him Thursday morning along with Microbiology department head Thangam Menon.
Dr. Thiruvasagam also offered him support — financial and infrastructural — at the Institute. An offer of setting up a special lab to continue working on his subject of research was also made on the occasion.
Dr. Menon said Mr. Karthikeyan was a hard working student that the varsity was proud of. While much of his work was completed in the United Kingdom, working at Cardiff University, the strain was initially characterised at the lab in Chennai.
He is about to submit his synopsis and is likely to complete his Ph.D. in six months' time.
At the end of an unusually busy day, fielding questions from the media, the young researcher was a little tired and worried. The fatherless lad from Erode had his elation set back slightly at the interpretation the media had given his article. “That it was transmitted from India is hypothetical. Unless we analyse samples from across the world to confirm its presence, we can only speculate,” he said.
“There is already talk of the NDM-1 affecting medical tourism to India. Our intention in publishing the study was just to show its prevalence in India. It is worrying - the spin that has followed since the publication of the article in The Lancet,” Mr. Karthikeyan added.
He is grateful to his mentor Walsh who helped him in the U.K. and his colleagues and staff at Madras University. As he relaxes late night in his hostel room, the 32-year-old researcher finally caught his breath and talked to The Hindu about the furore his research has created: “This has been my life, my work. I hardly expected this kind of interest or media attention.”
“I'm certainly going to continue in this area. It is not enough to find something or even, define it. How does research benefit society? I'm going to be looking at ways to eradicate the gene, and developing stronger drugs,” he said with conviction. He knows that his chances of securing a good job abroad are great, but he is keen on working in an Indian set up. He was very clear: “My service should be for India.”