New study may help perfect diagnostic test for cerebral malariaPublished On: Fri, May 4th, 2007 | Neurobiology | By BioNews
May 4 : A new study may allow better understanding of cerebral malaria and may also provide a lead on how to perfect a diagnostic test for better patient care.
Cerebral malaria is a fatal disease caused by Plasmodium falciparum parasite and the symptoms include high fever and convulsions followed by coma. The high mortality rate from this form of malaria is also linked to a problem of patient care, because despite the availability of effective treatment, patients often arrive too late at the hospital. The availability of predictive tests would therefore be useful in improving patient care.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Sylviane Pied at CNRS and the Pasteur Institute, in collaboration with physicians in Gabon.
B-lymphocytes, the main antibody producing cells, increase their secretion of a range of antibodies, notably those directed against various components of the organism (DNA, red blood cells, etc. Its not known if these ‘auto-antibodies’ are a result of pathological mechanisms associated with the infection or are contributed to the events leading to the severe forms of the illness.
As part of the study, to understand if some of these auto-antibodies were directed against the molecules in the brain, researchers observed the blood samples of some 350 children aged between 6 months and 5 years who had been treated in Gabonese hospitals.
The cohort was divided into 5 groups: control patients (without parasites in the blood), asymptomatic patients, patients developing simple malaria, patients suffering from serious, non-cerebral malaria (notably severe anaemia), and finally patients suffering from neurological infection.
Researchers found that in 90% of children suffering from cerebral malaria, the antibodies specifically recognise a protein in the brain, cerebral alpha-spectrin.
This study also opens a new sector of malaria research in understanding the role of auto-antibodies directed against cerebral antigens in the development of the illness.
“Our hope today is that this discovery will allow for the development of a diagnostic test for cerebral malaria. Our hypothesis is that the production of auto-antibodies against alpha-spectrin is a predisposition to the development of cerebral malaria, and our current research aims to verify this. If, in the field, we had a test which allowed us to tell whether or not a person is susceptible to developing cerebral malaria it would enable us to considerably improve their treatment,” Pied said. (ANI)