Andrew Baldi

Andrew Baldi

Researcher in the lab
Iron deficiency impacts millions of people around the world, and is a significant cause of illness and death, particularly in women and children in low-income countries.

Clinician PhD student Dr Andrew Baldi is contributing to an international trial studying the benefits and risks of iron supplementation for young children in low-income countries.

Improving children’s health

Researchers with a computer
Clinician PhD student Dr Andrew Baldi (R) and his
supervisor Dr Sant-Rayn Pasricha are examining the
impact of iron supplementation on childhood development.

Andrew’s PhD project is investigating the impact of oral iron supplementation on the composition of intestinal bacteria, or microbiome, in children in Bangladesh enrolled in the Benefits of Iron InterventionS in Children (BRISC) trial. The randomised control trial, led by Andrew’s supervisor Dr Sant-Rayn Pasricha, involves more than 3000 children and is one of the largest studies ever undertaken to examine the role of iron on children’s development.

The research addresses whether iron supplements influence a child’s risk of developing diarrhoeal infections through changes in their microbiome, Andrew said. “Diarrhoeal diseases are a leading cause of death in young children around the world, and can also impact their growth and development.

“My project is addressing the question of whether iron supplements have negative effects on the microbiome, which might offset the potential positive benefits on childhood growth and development,” he said.

Group of people
By visiting trial sites in Bangladesh, Andrew (centre front)
has gained new insights into global health research.

To measure the microbiome diversity in stool samples from children enrolled in the trial, Andrew extracts DNA and uses genome sequencing to detect different bacterial species. “Using bioinformatic analyses, I can measure the diversity of bacterial species in each sample, and to look for the presence of ‘good’ (commensal) and ‘bad’ (potentially pathogenic) bacteria. This will allow me to look for associations between particular microbiome profiles and participants’ iron status, and growth and development data.

“It’s exciting to be part of an international trial that could have a significant impact in healthy childhood development,” Andrew said.

 

Developing new skills

Andrew joined our PhD program to develop his research skills after completing specialist training in paediatric haematology. “I was keen to find a PhD project that combined my interests in haematology and global health,” he said.

“The Institute has a strong reputation for outstanding medical research, and provides clinicians with in-depth training in translational research – so working on the BRISC trial was a great project for me.

Researcher in the lab
Andrew has been able to develop a range of research
skills during his PhD studies.

Andrew found the transition into research training was assisted by his colleagues. “My lab includes a fun collection of scientists – aside from the enormous amount of help they have given me, they have become a great group of friends! I’ve also been able to visit our trial sites in Bangladesh, which has not only given me an insight into the running of global health trials but also given me the opportunity to meet the children and parents who are directly contributing to my research.”

“My PhD is equipping me with a solid set of new skills in the lab, bioinformatics and in the running of global health trials. This will provide a great foundation for me to continue to lead research as a clinician-haematologist.”

 

Learn more about our opportunities for clinician-PhD students.

Two researchers smiling at the camera

Institute researchers have launched one of the largest international efforts to prevent and treat maternal anaemia in developing countries.

The study will also investigate the impacts of iron deficiency on the developing infant brain.