Rare African MRI Instrument Reveals Massive Brain Swelling As Cause of Death in Children with Cerebral Malaria; Finding May Lead to Effective Treatments

Malaria kills one child every minute. While medical researchers have successfully developed effective drugs to kill the malaria parasite, efforts to treat the effects of the disease have not been as successful. But that soon may change. In a groundbreaking study published in the March 19, 2015 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Michigan State University's (MSU’s) Dr. Terrie Taylor (photo) and her team discovered what causes death in children with cerebral malaria, the deadliest form of the disease. "We discovered that some children with cerebral malaria develop massively swollen brains and those are the children who die," Dr. Taylor said. Dr. Taylor and her research team found that the brain becomes so swollen it is forced out through the bottom of the skull and compresses the brain stem. This pressure causes the children to stop breathing and die. "Because we know now that the brain swelling is what causes death, we can work to find new treatments," Dr. Taylor said. "The next step is to identify what's causing the swelling and then develop treatments targeting those causes. It's also possible that using ventilators to keep the children breathing until the swelling subsides might save lives, but ventilators are few and far between in Africa at the moment." While increased efforts targeting malaria elimination and eradication have had some effect on malaria infection and illness, death rates from malaria are still too high, Dr. Taylor said. "It's gut-wrenching when children die, but what keeps us going is that we are making progress against this Voldemort [an arch villain in the Harry Potter series] of parasites," Dr. Taylor said. "It's been an elusive quarry, but I think we have it cornered." In 2008, GE Healthcare provided a $1-million MRI to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, where Dr.
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