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Mosquito-Borne Malaria Linked To Severe Brain Swelling

First Posted: Mar 19, 2015 11:58 PM EDT

New findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that cerebral malaria deaths or the most lethal type of the mosquito-borne disease are due to brain swelling.

This type of malaria involves the brain and oftentimes result in a coma and even death. In fact, close to 15 and 25 percent of African children who contracted this type of malaria die of the health issue. For those who do survive, many will deal with learning disabilities such as blindness or the inability to hear.

For this study, researchers performed MRI scans on 168 children dealing with this type of malaria. Twenty-five of them died, with 84 percent dealing with severe brain swelling. However, just 27 percent of the survivors had severe swelling.

"Increased brain volume was seen in children who died from cerebral malaria but was uncommon in those who did not die from the disease, a finding that suggests that raised intracranial pressure may contribute to a fatal outcome," the researchers reported, in a news release.

However, researchers believe that as the swelling worsens, the ventilators could help children maintain their breathing.

"The next step is to identify what's causing the swelling and then develop treatments targeting those causes. It's also possible that using ventilators to keep the children breathing until the swelling subsides might save lives, but ventilators are few and far between in Africa at the moment," Taylor concluded.

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