Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Eye-opening Research Provides Important Diagnostic Tool For Major Childhood Killer

Date:
November 12, 2006
Source:
Wellcome Trust
Summary:
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.

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.

Related Articles


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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wellcome Trust. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wellcome Trust. "Eye-opening Research Provides Important Diagnostic Tool For Major Childhood Killer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 November 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061106111800.htm>.
Wellcome Trust. (2006, November 12). Eye-opening Research Provides Important Diagnostic Tool For Major Childhood Killer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 2, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061106111800.htm
Wellcome Trust. "Eye-opening Research Provides Important Diagnostic Tool For Major Childhood Killer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061106111800.htm (accessed March 2, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, March 2, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Treadmill Test Can Predict Chance Of Death Within A Decade

Treadmill Test Can Predict Chance Of Death Within A Decade

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) Johns Hopkins researchers analyzed 58,000 heart stress tests to come up with a formula that predicts a person&apos;s chances of dying in the next decade. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Going Gluten-Free Could Get You A Tax Break

Going Gluten-Free Could Get You A Tax Break

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) If a doctor advises you to remove gluten from your diet, you could get a tax deduction on the amount you spend on gluten-free foods. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis Try Swapping Success

GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis Try Swapping Success

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 2, 2015) GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis have completed a series of asset swaps worth more than $20 billion. As Grace Pascoe reports they say the deal will reshape both drugmakers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Can West Africa Rebuild After Ebola?

How Can West Africa Rebuild After Ebola?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 2, 2015) How best to rebuild the three West African countries struggling with Ebola will be discussed in Brussels this week. As Hayley Platt reports Sierra Leone has the toughest job ahead - its once thriving economy has been ravaged by the disease. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins