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Lancet. 1990 Aug 25;336(8713):454-7.

Specificity of hypoglycaemia for cerebral malaria in children.

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Department of Paediatrics, Muhimbili Medical Centre, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


Glycaemic status on hospital admission was compared in 97 children with severe falciparum malaria (36 with cerebral malaria) and 89 children with other serious illnesses (32 in coma; 57 with acute pneumonia, not in coma). The frequency of hypoglycaemia (blood glucose below 2.2 mmol/l) did not differ significantly between malarial and control patients (5.2% vs 11.2%) nor between the comatose (11.1% vs 18.8%) and conscious (1.6% vs 7.0%) malarial and control subgroups. Compared with normoglycaemic patients, hypoglycaemic patients had appropriately low serum insulin (3.0 vs 8.2 mU/l) and C-peptide (0.13 vs 0.42 mmol/l) and high plasma non-esterified fatty acids (1.42 vs 0.83 mmol/l). Hypoglycaemia, the level of consciousness, and death were all significantly associated with the time since the last meal. Hypoglycaemia is not a specific complication of malaria but is found in severely ill fasted children, resulting from glycogen depletion and perhaps impaired hepatic gluconeogenesis. It should be sought in all severely sick children. A single bolus dose of glucose may not be enough to correct it.

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