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Friday 21st October 2016

New test for cerebral malaria

13th November 2006

29042006_malaria2.jpgA simple, quick and cheap eye test could save thousands of lives in malarial regions by identifying malaria in its most severe forms.

Diagnosing cerebral malaria — a severe complication of malaria in which the Plasmodium falciparum parasite infects capillaries that flow through the tissues of the brain — can be difficult, as patients can be unconscious and have a number of other illnesses.

Researchers have now found a way to tell whether a child is suffering from cerebral malaria or a different problem by identifying certain changes on the retina, the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

The research team, led by Nick Beare of the UK-based Royal Liverpool University Hospital, analysed the retinas of 45 children admitted to hospital in Blantyre, Malawi with cerebral malaria, and their findings have been published in this week's issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Among the signs of cerebral malaria they identified were retinal bleeding, swelling of the optic nerve, and white opaque patches and whitened blood vessels on the retina. The changes can be observed with an ophthalmoscope, an instrument widely available in African countries.

Once training is given, diagnosis is straighforward and cost-effective. Plans are in place for a fuller study by researchers in Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana and Kenya.


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