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Drug could reverse scourge of cerebral malaria for survivors
Date:5/1/2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. Michigan State University researchers, with the help of a groundbreaking medical device, are starting a clinical trial in Africa they hope will provide relief for the hundreds of thousands of children who survive cerebral malaria but are left stricken with epilepsy or other neurologic disorders.

The impact of those disorders via loss of human potential and lack of societal contribution is immeasurable, said Gretchen Birbeck, a professor of neurology and ophthalmology in the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Birbeck is leading the trial in the central African nation of Malawi that will use levetiracetam, or LVT, an anti-seizure medication used in the United States and other developed nations. However, the drug has never been tested to target cerebral malaria seizures.

"Seizure management in malaria endemic regions such as sub-Sahara Africa is challenging because the available antiepileptic drugs can suppress respiration, and assisted ventilation is unavailable," Birbeck said. "LVT does not have that effect, and if we can optimize a seizure control treatment that is both affordable and accessible in resource-limited settings, we may be able to improve neurologic outcomes in cerebral malaria survivors."

The research, part of MSU's Blantyre Malaria Project at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, is being funded with a nearly $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Cerebral malaria is a severe form of malaria affecting the brain, occurring predominantly in children, with a mortality rate of 15-25 percent. It affects about three million children every year, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa.

Almost a third of cerebral malaria survivors develop epilepsy or other neurologic disorders, according to research Birbeck also director of MSU's International Neurologic & Psychiatric Epidemiology Program published previously in The La
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Contact: Jason Cody
codyja@msu.edu
517-432-0924
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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