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Rochester advances understanding of deadly form of malaria
Date:6/1/2010

Scientists are making strides against cerebral malaria, a fatal form of malaria in children that can ravage the brain and is extremely difficult to treat. New research points to platelets known for their role in blood clotting as playing an important role in the disease, stimulating the immune system and turning on molecules that increase inflammation. The inflammation leads to the obstruction of blood vessels in the brain, causing brain damage similar to that seen with a stroke.

The latest research, conducted by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center and published in the online journal PLoS ONE, is part of an ongoing effort to better understand the origin and development of cerebral malaria, which predominantly affects children under the age of 10 living in malaria-endemic areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa.

"Malaria is a complex disease and we need to look at it from every possible angle, focusing on both vaccine research and basic research, as we've done in this study," said Craig Morrell, D.V.M., Ph.D., assistant professor within the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Medical Center and lead author of the study. "Our findings increase our knowledge of cerebral malaria and suggest that targeting platelets may prove to be a viable intervention strategy."

Malaria is one of the world's biggest killers, accounting for approximately 1 million deaths each year. Research continues to expand, due in large part to the new emphasis organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have brought to the area. While research efforts are mainly focused on vaccine development, new therapies to treat malaria are needed, as the parasite that causes malaria Plasmodium falciparum is becoming resistant to current treatments. Morrell's team is one of the few groups studying the development and progression of cerebral malaria, with the goal finding new ways to intervene and treat the disease.

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Contact: Emily Butler
emily_butler@urmc.rochester.edu
585-273-1757
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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