Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Eye-opening research provides important diagnostic tool for major childhood killer

07.11.2006
The eye can provide a very reliable way of diagnosing cerebral malaria, researchers in Malawi have shown. By looking at the changes to the retina, doctors are able to determine whether an unconscious child is suffering from this severe form of malaria or another, unrelated illness, leading to the most appropriate treatment.

Because malaria is so common in Africa, children may have an incidental malaria infection whilst actually having another life-threatening illness. This can confuse the diagnosis in an unconscious child. Doctors hope that widespread use of eye examination could greatly reduce the number of children dying from this major childhood killer.

In research funded by the Wellcome Trust and the National Institutes of Health, a study led by Dr Nick Beare of the St Paul's Eye Unit, Liverpool, has shown that changes to the retina were the only clinical sign or laboratory test which could distinguish between patients who actually died from cerebral malaria and those with another cause of death. The results of their study are published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

"Over a million people a year die from malaria, and most of these are African children," explains Dr Beare. "Death is usually caused by cerebral malaria, a severe complication of malaria in which the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite causes infection of the capillaries that flow through the tissues of the brain, affecting the brain and central nervous system. This can lead to convulsions, coma and death."

Cerebral malaria is accompanied by changes in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. These changes, known as malarial retinopathy, include white, opaque patches, whitening of the infected blood vessels, bleeding into the retina and swelling of the optic nerve, the nerve that transmits visual signals to the brain. The first two of these signs are unique to severe malaria, and not seen in any other disease.

Malaria parasites live in red blood cells and make them stick to the inside of small blood vessels, particularly in the brain and also the eye. It is thought that this causes the unique whitening of eye blood vessels. The light-sensitive tissue in the eye is also affected because the parasites disrupt the supply of oxygen and nutrients. However, once children recover, their vision does not seem to be affected.

"In cerebral malaria, the eye acts as a window onto the brain, providing valuable information for the doctors caring for the patients," says Dr Beare. "Our research demonstrates that the detection of malarial retinopathy is a much needed diagnostic tool in cerebral malaria, and can identify those children at most risk of death. Diagnosis requires special training in eye examination, but is relatively straightforward and cost effective, which is essential in resource-poor settings such as Africa."

Doctors are able to carry out this diagnosis using just an ophthalmoscope, an instrument through which the observer can see the retina at the back of the eye.

Researchers in Malawi have previously shown that up to a quarter of children apparently dying from cerebral malaria in fact had another cause of death. Dr Beare and his team hope that by confirming the diagnosis of cerebral malaria, appropriate care can be targeted at those most in need. By identifying children who might not have cerebral malaria other causes of coma can be searched for, and potentially treated.

Commenting on the research, Dr Sohaila Rastan, Director of Science Funding at the Wellcome Trust, said: "This work is impressive and if it can be effectively delivered in a resource-poor setting could have a significant impact on the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of cerebral malaria in children."

Craig Brierley | alfa
Further information:
http://www.wellcome.ac.uk

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Millions through license revenues
27.04.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht New High-Performance Center Translational Medical Engineering
26.04.2017 | Fraunhofer ITEM

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>