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Int J Parasitol. 2006 May 1;36(5):583-93. Epub 2006 Mar 13.

Conventional and experimental treatment of cerebral malaria.

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  • 1Department of Parasitology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.


The most severe complication of Plasmodium falciparum infection is cerebral malaria (CM). Cerebral malaria implies the presence of neurological features, especially impaired consciousness. The treatment of CM is limited to: (i) a few conventional anti-malarial drugs (quinine or artemisinins), (ii) adjunctive treatments (initial stabilisation, blood exchange transfusion, osmotic diuretics and correction of hypoglycaemia, acidosis and hypovolaemia) and (iii) immunomodulation. There are clear procedures concerning treatment of CM, which include the use of the anti-plasmodial drugs. Adjunctive treatments are permissible but there is no single official guideline and immune intervention is a possibility currently being examined in rodent models only. The suggested immunomodulation approach is based on the strong likelihood that CM is the result of an immunopathological process. P. falciparum initiates the multifactorial chain of events leading to lethal CM and, after a certain stage, it is impossible to stop the progression even by using anti-malarial drugs. We present evidence that CM is a result of a dysregulated immune response. Therefore, it might be prevented by early modulation of discrete factors that participate in this process. In experimental systems, some immunomodulators delay or prevent CM without affecting the parasitaemia. Therefore, in the future the ultimate treatment of CM may be a combination of an anti-malarial and an immunomodulator. However, the overall effect of an immunomodulator would need to be carefully examined in view of concomitant infections, especially in malaria endemic areas.

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