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Virulence. 2012 Mar-Apr;3(2):193-201. doi: 10.4161/viru.19013. Epub 2012 Mar 1.

Cerebral malaria: mysteries at the blood-brain barrier.

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Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A STAR), Biopolis, Singapore.


Cerebral malaria is the most severe pathology caused by the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. The pathogenic mechanisms leading to cerebral malaria are still poorly defined as studies have been hampered by limited accessibility to human tissues. Nevertheless, histopathology of post-mortem human tissues and mouse models of cerebral malaria have indicated involvement of the blood-brain barrier in cerebral malaria. In contrast to viruses and bacteria, malaria parasites do not infiltrate and infect the brain parenchyma. Instead, rupture of the blood-brain barrier occurs and may lead to hemorrhages resulting in neurological alterations. Here, we review the most recent findings from human studies and mouse models on the interactions of malaria parasites and the blood-brain barrier, shedding light on the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria, which may provide directions for possible interventions.

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