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Pneumonia Accounts for Millions of Deaths in Children Under Five, PhD Study Reveals

April 21, 2016

 Professor Prakash Jeena.
Despite the availability of a wide range of potent antibiotics, pneumonia accounts for 6.6 million deaths in children under five years old, a study conducted by UKZN’s Department of Paediatrics and Child Health’s Professor Prakash Jeena has found.

Jeena was awarded his PhD for the study titled: “The Impact and Management of Viral Infections in HIV-Infected and Uninfected Children with Severe and Very Severe Pneumonia”.

Jeena said many of these deaths occurred in developing countries like South Africa and especially among HIV-infected children. The role of viruses in these deaths has not been fully evaluated.

Supervised by Professor Miriam Adhikari, Jeena’s study described the burden of respiratory viruses among children with pneumonia.

‘After having identified cytomegalovirus to be the most common virus implicated in these deaths, we introduced an intervention, ganciclovi, and assessed the benefit of this intervention on outcome,’ said Jeena.

He said the research showed significant improvement in a cohort of mechanically ventilated HIV-infected children with CMV associated pneumonitis treated with ganciclovir.

‘Together with the use of combined antiretroviral therapy we were able to show favourable outcomes of children who required intensive care,’ added Jeena.

According to Jeena, based on these findings they are able to justify the admission of HIV-infected children with pneumonia to scarce ICU resources.

Jeena thanked his supervisor, Professor Adhikari, ‘She is an exceptional human being who assisted me throughout this process. Her intellectual and emotional guidance during my journey were immense.’

Besides caring for children in a busy PICU Pulmonology ward and in an allergy clinic, Jeena is involved in writing up his PhD student’s thesis. In addition, he is involved in the supervision of six other postgraduate students.

He is a content expert for the World Health Organization and the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung disease. He was also appointed by the Minister of Health to serve on many national advisory committees, including the Essential Drugs Programme, the Advisory Group on Immunisation, the Antimicrobial Resistance Committee and the National AIDS Committee.

He described himself as simple human being who loves normal things men like such as sport, especially football, music, entertainment and great food.

‘I am a devout Hindu and have a wonderful wife, Yaksha, who has a Master’s degree in Education, I also have two daughters, Lisha and Cheshni, both of whom are studying at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine.

Born and bred in Durban, Jeena spent his childhood in rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal helping his late dad deliver groceries in the region.

Nombuso Dlamini

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