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J Infect Dis. 2003 Sep 15;188(6):844-9. Epub 2003 Sep 9.

Metabolites of the kynurenine pathway of tryptophan metabolism in the cerebrospinal fluid of Malawian children with malaria.

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Nuffield Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Oxford-Wellcome Centre for Tropical Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.


A retrospective study of 100 Malawian children (87 with malaria and 13 with a diagnosis other than malaria) was conducted to determine the relationship between levels of metabolites of the kynurenine pathway in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and disease outcome. Three metabolites were measured: quinolinic acid (QA), an excitotoxin; kynurenic acid (KA), a neuroprotective receptor antagonist; and picolinic acid (PA), a proinflammatory mediator. Elevated levels of QA and PA in CSF were associated with a fatal outcome in Malawian children with cerebral malaria (CM). QA was associated with a history of convulsions. An increase in the QArcolon;KA ratio, which favors neurotoxicity, was observed only in the 3 patients with tuberculosis meningitis. Compared with Vietnamese adults with malaria, Malawian children with malaria had higher concentrations of KA. Elevated levels of KA in children with CM may serve to contain injury in the developing brain, which is more susceptible to excitotoxic damage than is the adult brain.

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