Champion of Immunological Research on Leprosy: Dr. Indira Nath

Dr. Indira Nath is an immunologist and is considered as one of the pioneers of immunology in India. Immunologists study the role of the immune system in human health and diseases. While many immunologists prefer to study cancers and autoimmune conditions, in contrast, Dr. Indira Nath chose to study the immunology of Leprosy, a neglected tropical disease that had a considerable disease burden and social stigma in India. 

Image Credit: World Science Forum

Dr. Indira Nath completed her medical education, MBBS, and MD, from the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, and specialized in immunology from the United Kingdom as a Nuffield fellow. She returned to India and joined her alma mater where she continued the rest of the journey till formal retirement. Meanwhile, Dr. Nath also oversaw the establishment of a new department of biotechnology at AIIMS in which she served as the founding head and further advanced her new-age research on the immunology of leprosy. However, even two decades after retirement she is still active in the immunological research as several scientific organizations continue to fund her works, some of which also include international assignments.

Through her numerous immunological experiments on leprosy bacteria, patients, and immune cells, such as macrophages and T cells, Dr. Nath was able to explain that how the improper functioning of the immune system and T cells influenced the development of severe forms of leprosy and the response to antibacterial treatment. She has also been credited with the sequencing of the LSR2 gene in the leprosy-causing bacteria. Her research also guided experiments on experimental immunotherapy treatments and candidate vaccines for leprosy. Her researches fetched her national as well as international recognition as an expert on the immunology of leprosy, and therefore, she was also able to advise the governments on the strategies adopted in leprosy control programs.

Besides her contributions to leprosy, she was also recognized for excellence in research ethics and global health in her over five decades-long career and involves herself in various global health activities. For her researches and contributions, she was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri and Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Awards by the Government of India. The Government of France also awarded her with the civilian award of Chevalier Ordre National du Merite. She was also honored with the L’Oreal UNESCO Award for Women in Science and the Cochrane Research Award for her excellence.

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About the author: Dr. Naval Asija is a licensed MBBS Physician from India. MBBS is the equivalent of the MD degree offered by international medical schools. He is based in Delhi, India, and works as a medical writer, editor, and consultant. He supports medical researches as an author's editor, medical communication companies involved in medico-marketing activities, and medical technology companies in improving their products. He can be contacted via his LinkedIn Profile:
Journey of a non clinical doctor

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