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 Loss of identity in immune cells explained
18.02.2019 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Progress in the treatment of aggressive brain tumors
18.02.2019 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

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: Regensburg physicists watch electron transfer in a single molecule

For the first time, an international team of scientists based in Regensburg, Germany, has recorded the orbitals of single molecules in different charge states in a novel type of microscopy. The research findings are published under the title “Mapping orbital changes upon electron transfer with tunneling microscopy on insulators” in the prestigious journal “Nature”.

The building blocks of matter surrounding us are atoms and molecules. The properties of that matter, however, are often not set by these building blocks...

Im Focus: University of Konstanz gains new insights into the recent development of the human immune system

Scientists at the University of Konstanz identify fierce competition between the human immune system and bacterial pathogens

Cell biologists from the University of Konstanz shed light on a recent evolutionary process in the human immune system and publish their findings in the...

Im Focus: Transformation through Light

Laser physicists have taken snapshots of carbon molecules C₆₀ showing how they transform in intense infrared light

When carbon molecules C₆₀ are exposed to an intense infrared light, they change their ball-like structure to a more elongated version. This has now been...

Im Focus: Famous “sandpile model” shown to move like a traveling sand dune

Researchers at IST Austria find new property of important physical model. Results published in PNAS

The so-called Abelian sandpile model has been studied by scientists for more than 30 years to better understand a physical phenomenon called self-organized...

Im Focus: Cryo-force spectroscopy reveals the mechanical properties of DNA components

Physicists from the University of Basel have developed a new method to examine the elasticity and binding properties of DNA molecules on a surface at extremely low temperatures. With a combination of cryo-force spectroscopy and computer simulations, they were able to show that DNA molecules behave like a chain of small coil springs. The researchers reported their findings in Nature Communications.

DNA is not only a popular research topic because it contains the blueprint for life – it can also be used to produce tiny components for technical applications.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Global Legal Hackathon at HAW Hamburg

11.02.2019 | Event News

The world of quantum chemistry meets in Heidelberg

30.01.2019 | Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

The Internet of Things: TU Graz researchers increase the dependability of smart systems

18.02.2019 | Interdisciplinary Research

Laser Processes for Multi-Functional Composites

18.02.2019 | Process Engineering

Scientists Create New Map of Brain’s Immune System

18.02.2019 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>