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Cerebral malaria in children: using the retina to study the brain

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MacCormick, I. J. C., Beare, N. A. V., Taylor, T. E., Barrera, V., White, V. A., Hiscott, P., Molyneux, Malcolm E, Dhillon, B. and Harding, S. P. (2014) 'Cerebral malaria in children: using the retina to study the brain'. Brain, Vol 137, Issue 8, pp. 2119-2142.

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Abstract

Cerebral malaria is a dangerous complication of Plasmodium falciparum infection, which takes a devastating toll on children in sub-Saharan Africa. Although autopsy studies have improved understanding of cerebral malaria pathology in fatal cases, information about in vivo neurovascular pathogenesis is scarce because brain tissue is inaccessible in life. Surrogate markers may provide insight into pathogenesis and thereby facilitate clinical studies with the ultimate aim of improving the treatment and prognosis of cerebral malaria. The retina is an attractive source of potential surrogate markers for paediatric cerebral malaria because, in this condition, the retina seems to sustain microvascular damage similar to that of the brain. In paediatric cerebral malaria a combination of retinal signs correlates, in fatal cases, with the severity of brain pathology, and has diagnostic and prognostic significance. Unlike the brain, the retina is accessible to high-resolution, non-invasive imaging. We aimed to determine the extent to which paediatric malarial retinopathy reflects cerebrovascular damage by reviewing the literature to compare retinal and cerebral manifestations of retinopathy-positive paediatric cerebral malaria. We then compared retina and brain in terms of anatomical and physiological features that could help to account for similarities and differences in vascular pathology. These comparisons address the question of whether it is biologically plausible to draw conclusions about unseen cerebral vascular pathogenesis from the visible retinal vasculature in retinopathy-positive paediatric cerebral malaria. Our work addresses an important cause of death and neurodisability in sub-Saharan Africa. We critically appraise evidence for associations between retina and brain neurovasculature in health and disease, and in the process we develop new hypotheses about why these vascular beds are susceptible to sequestration of parasitized erythrocytes.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: WC Communicable Diseases > Tropical and Parasitic Diseases > WC 750 Malaria
WL Nervous System > WL 20 Research (General)
WS Pediatrics > WS 100 General works
WW Ophthalmology > WW 20 Research (General)
WW Ophthalmology > Eye Structures and their Diseases > WW 270 Retina
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > Clinical Sciences Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awu001
Depositing User: Lynn Roberts-Maloney
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2015 12:10
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2018 13:08
URI: https://archive.lstmed.ac.uk/id/eprint/4778

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