The impact of the findings on African society is immeasurable, Birbeck said.
"The long-term loss of human potential from these disorders is mind-boggling," she said. "Yes, these children are surviving the malaria, but their quality of life and what they contribute to society is severely hampered. There is a huge burden of post-malaria neurological disorders."
But Birbeck said there are steps that can be taken.
"We need to be more aggressive in treating the two major risk factors: seizures and high fever," she said, adding that the next step will be to start clinical trials to identify treatments aimed at better seizure and fever control.
Previous studies of neurological consequences related to cerebral malaria have been limited by poor retention rates, lack of follow-up and assessments that were stopped when the results of neurological examinations were normal.
Also, cerebral malaria is challenging to diagnose definitively. However, researchers from MSU and the University of Liverpool in England previously had discovered that diagnosing malaria retinopathy a set of abnormalities in the eye's retina greatly enhances the ability to diagnose cerebral malaria. Thus, as part the study published in The Lancet Neurology, Birbeck and her team only looked at children with retinopathy-positive cerebral malaria.
Terrie Taylor, an MSU University Distinguished Professor and co-author on the paper, spends six months each year battling malaria at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.
"The challenge now is to devise better treatments during the cerebral malaria episode in hopes of minimizing the risk of epilepsy in years to come," she said.
Birbeck said MSU's continued and dedicated presence in Africa is what allows such research to be done.
"The long-term relationships that have been established with ministri
|Contact: Jason Cody|
Michigan State University