New malaria tool shows which kids at greatest risk

Karl Seydel, MSU assistant professor of osteopathic medical specialties, cares for a child with malaria in Blantyre, Malawi. Seydel and colleagues discovered a test that can help clinicians make crucial decisions about which malaria patients face the greatest risk for developing a life-threatening form of the disease. Credit: Photo by Jim Peck.

Researchers at Michigan State University have identified a test that can determine which children with malaria are likely to develop cerebral malaria, a much more life-threatening form of the disease.

The could be a game-changer in resource-limited rural health clinics where workers see hundreds of children with malaria each day and must decide which patients can be sent home with oral drugs and which need to be taken to hospitals for more comprehensive care.

"Rural have to make these decisions with very little objective data, and the consequences of an inappropriate decision are huge," said Karl Seydel, MSU assistant professor of osteopathic medical specialties. "Children who progress to have a 20 percent mortality rate, or even higher if they don't get the right treatment early in the disease process."

In a new study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, Seydel and colleagues report that testing patients' blood for HRP2—a protein produced by the – was an accurate predictor of how the disease progressed among children at Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.

"We found that if HRP2 levels are low, clinicians can be more than 98 percent sure the child will not progress to cerebral malaria," Seydel said. "That would give them the confidence to merely prescribe oral drugs and send the child home."

Nowhere is the need for such a tool greater than in Africa, where 90 percent of childhood malaria deaths occur. Only about 1 percent of children with malaria develop the life-threatening form of the disease, yet an estimated 1 million African children die from it each year.

"In most of Africa, where resources are still so limited, using those available resources appropriately and intelligently is of great importance," Seydel said.

The HRP2 test in its current form is costly and poorly suited to use in rural clinics, Seydel noted. He and colleagues are in the process of developing a less expensive, more portable version.

Seydel's collaborators on the study include MSU researchers Lindsay Fox, Terrie Taylor and Mathew Reeves, along with partners from the University of Malawi College of Medicine.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Research team launches groundbreaking drug trial in Africa

Feb 16, 2013

Determined to bring relief to seizure victims, a Michigan State University research team this month begins a groundbreaking clinical drug trial that could help prevent a quarter-million African children from developing epilepsy ...

'Window into the brain' reveals deadly secrets of malaria

Jan 15, 2009

Looking at the retina in the eyes of patients with cerebral malaria has provided scientists with a vital insight into why malaria infection in the brain is so deadly. In a study funded by the Wellcome Trust and Fight for ...

Recommended for you

New hope for rare disease drug development

4 hours ago

Using combinations of well-known approved drugs has for the first time been shown to be potentially safe in treating a rare disease, according to the results of a clinical trial published in the open access Orphanet Journal of ...

Three weeks since last Ebola case in Mali: WHO

7 hours ago

Mali has not had a case of Ebola for three weeks, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, completing one of the two incubation periods the country needs to be declared free of the virus.

Migraine may double risk for facial paralysis

8 hours ago

Migraine headache may double the risk of a nervous system condition that causes facial paralysis, called Bell's palsy, according to a new study published in the December 17, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the medical journa ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.