A team of researchers from Michigan State University created a compound which can kill cerebral malaria in just 48 hours.
The scientists examined MRI of cerebral malaria patients. To their own surprise, the researchers observed that there was no brain swelling in the cases of children who survived the deadly infection. On the other hand, patients who died had severe swelling inflammation. The acute swelling pushed the brain to the inferior part of the skull.
The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. It stresses that in every minute a child is killed by cerebral malaria, one of the most dangerous diseases in the world. Even if there are drugs which can kill this parasite, in most cases the survivors can be left blind,deaf or with other disabilities.
Cerebral malaria was considered a mystery by researchers until this breakthrough. Researches were aware that brain swelling could prove to be fatal but they could not confirm this hypothesis with evidence. They used M.R.I. machines to scan the brain of patients, especially children, suffering from critical cerebral malaria.
“We discovered that some children with cerebral malaria develop massively swollen brains and those are the children who die,” said Dr. Terrie Taylor the senior author of the study and a professor at the Michigan State College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is an expert on cerebral malaria, spending half of every year in the African country of Malawi.
Malaria causes acute fever and body aches. In the case of children, the parasite attacks the brain. The infection leads to coma and then death.
The parasite causes the swelling of the brain, which is forced to the bottom of the scull. This movement compresses the brain stem which is responsible for the respiratory system. The child dies within a few seconds after the breathing has stopped.
“Because we know now that the brain swelling is what causes death, we can work to find new treatments. The next step is to identify what’s causing the swelling and then develop treatments targeting those causes,” Dr. Taylor added.
Dr. Taylor believes that more studies are needed in order to solve the entire problem, even if certain drugs like mannitol or steroids can help with the swelling.
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