Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rainfall, brain infection linked in sub-Saharan Africa

Date:
January 4, 2013
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
The amount of rainfall affects the number of infant infections leading to hydrocephalus in Uganda, according to a team of researchers who are the first to demonstrate that these brain infections are linked to climate.

Hydrocephalus -- literally "water on the brain" -- is characterized by the build-up of the fluid that is normally within and surrounding the brain, leading to brain swelling.
Credit: Steven Schiff

The amount of rainfall affects the number of infant infections leading to hydrocephalus in Uganda, according to a team of researchers who are the first to demonstrate that these brain infections are linked to climate.

Hydrocephalus -- literally "water on the brain" -- is characterized by the build-up of the fluid that is normally within and surrounding the brain, leading to brain swelling. The swelling will cause brain damage or death if not treated. Even if treated, there is only a one-third chance of a child maintaining a normal life after post-infectious hydrocephalus develops, and that chance is dependent on whether the child has received the best treatment possible.

"The most common need for a child to require neurosurgery around the world is hydrocephalus," said Steven J. Schiff, the Brush Chair Professor of Engineering, director of the Penn State Center for Neural Engineering and a team member.

In sub-Saharan Africa, upward of 100,000 cases of post-infectious hydrocephalus a year are estimated to occur. The majority of these cases occur after a newborn has suffered from neonatal sepsis, a blood infection that occurs within the first four weeks of life, the researchers reported in a recent issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.

Benjamin C. Warf, associate professor of neurosurgery, Harvard Medical School, Boston Children's Hospital, noticed that about three or four months after an infant in East Africa had an infection like neonatal sepsis, the child would often return to the clinic with a rapidly growing head -- hydrocephalus. Schiff joined Warf to help figure out what caused this disease so frequently.

Schiff and colleagues tracked 696 hydrocephalus cases in Ugandan infants between the years 2000 and 2005. The researchers obtained localized rainfall data for the same time frame through NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather satellites using the African Rainfall Estimation Algorithm developed at the U.S. NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Uganda has two peak rainfall seasons, in spring and fall. By comparing the data from NOAA and the hydrocephalus cases, the researchers found that instances of the disorder rose significantly at four different times throughout the year -- before and after the peak of each rainy season, when the amount of rainfall was at intermediate levels. In Uganda an intermediate rainfall is about 6 inches of rain per month.

Schiff and colleagues previously noted that different bacteria appear associated with post-infectious hydrocephalus at different seasons of the year. While the researchers have not yet characterized the full spectrum of bacteria causing hydrocephalus in so many infants, they note that environmental conditions affect conditions supporting bacterial growth, and that the amount of rain can quench bacterial infections. The moisture level clearly affects the number of cases of hydrocephalus in this region of East Africa.

"Hydrocephalus is the first major neurosurgical condition linked to climate," said Schiff, who is also professor of neurosurgery, engineering science and mechanics, and physics, and a faculty member of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. "This means that a substantial component of these cases are almost certainly driven from the environmental conditions, and that means they are potentially preventable if we understand the routes and mechanisms of infection better."

Other members of the research team were Sylvia L. Ranjeva, who was then a Penn State Schreyer Honors College undergraduate and now at the University of Chicago Medical School, and Timothy D. Sauer, professor of mathematics, George Mason University.

The Penn State Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute; the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) Program; and the Harvey F. Brush Endowment funds supported this work.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Rainfall, brain infection linked in sub-Saharan Africa." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130104143652.htm>.
Penn State. (2013, January 4). Rainfall, brain infection linked in sub-Saharan Africa. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130104143652.htm
Penn State. "Rainfall, brain infection linked in sub-Saharan Africa." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130104143652.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — For months California has suffered from a historic drought. The lack of water is worrying for farmers and ranchers, but for gold diggers it’s a stroke of good fortune. With water levels low, normally inaccessible areas are exposed. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — With only three weeks until Minnesota's fishing opener, many are wondering if the ice will be gone. Some of the Northland lakes are still covered by up to three feet of ice, causing concern that just like last year, the lakes won't be ready. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) — NASA is inviting all social media users to take a selfie of themselves alongside nature and to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, or Google Plus with the hashtag #globalselfie. NASA's goal is to crowd-source a collection of snapshots of the earth, ground-up, that will be used to create one "unique mosaic of the Blue Marble." This image will be available to all in May. Since this is probably one of the few times posting a selfie to Twitter won't be embarrassing, we suggest you give it a go for a good cause. Video provided by TheStreet
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:
from the past week

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