SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

Children with cerebral malaria show novel disease signatures

Children with cerebral malaria show novel disease signatures. | Courtesy of biology.usf.edu
Researchers recently discovered that children who have cerebral malaria have novel signatures of the disease in their brains.

Cerebral malaria (CM) has cells that are connected to blood clotting and inflammation. These cells gather in the brain blood vessels of children, causing the potentially fatal disease, and the accumulation of these cells can contribute to the disease’s overall process. In addition, HIV can further worsen the development of the illness.

The scientists conducted autopsies of brain tissues from more than 100 African children. Children who had CM contained over nine times the regular amount of white blood cells (which scavenge the body’s dead tissue) and platelets (which encourage blood clotting) compared to brain tissues from children without malaria. These cells accumulated twice as much if the children also had HIV.

"Our study clearly shows that HIV exacerbates the disease process in cerebral malaria and also leads to some really interesting insights into what may be going on with children who are dying of cerebral malaria, which has been very controversial," Dr. Kami Kim, senior study author and professor of medicine, pathology, microbiology and immunology, said. "Children who are HIV-positive and at risk for malaria may benefit from targeted anti-malaria drugs, and adjunctive therapies that target inflammation or blood clotting may improve outcomes from CM."

Further details are available in mBio, which is a journal in an online open-access format under the American Society for Microbiology.

The ASM’s mission is to gain a better understanding of basic life processes and to promote the application of this knowledge for improved health and economic and environmental well-being.

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