Friday, March 20, 2015

Blog #5: Brain Swelling Tied to Deaths from Malaria

Brain Swelling Tied to Deaths from Malaria

Malaria, a disease caused by a parasite spread by mosquitoes, is a chief killer in the tropics. In 2013, there were 198 million cases worldwide. Of the 198 million, 500,000 people passed away, and they were mostly children in Africa. Although there is no current vaccine for this disease, drugs can prevent the infection and treat it. However, malaria can still be rapidly fatal with the treatment, especially in young children.

 An extremely dangerous form of the disease is cerebral malaria. This specific form involves the brain and can lead to a coma and death. About fifteen to twenty-five percent of the African children who are infected by this disease die. The children who do survive it can be left deaf, blind, or with learning disabilities. A study conducted concluded that when children die from a severe form of malaria, cerebral edema occurs. Cerebral edema is a fancy term for brain swelling. Researchers suspect that this study will lead to improved treatments.

Doctors suspected that brain swelling played a role in fatal cases, but the evidence was not certain. Being optimistic, Malawi researchers executed M.R.I. scans on 168 children who exhibited symptoms of cerebral malaria. Twenty-five of the children died, and twenty-one had severe cerebral edema. Dr. Terrie E. Taylor concluded that the children stopped breathing because the respiratory center in the brain stem is compressed by the swelling. Dr. Taylor also went on to say that some children can be saved by ventilators because they will maintain their breathing through the worst part of the brain swelling.

All in all, I hope eventually there is a cure for malaria one day. Children are our future; without them there will be no future. It is incredibly sad to see and hear about hordes of children dying with this severe disease. Until there is a cure for malaria, or even if there is never one, there definitely needs to be improved treatments and/or medications for the disease.

Shane’ Lennon

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