New Diagnostic Tool Could Slash Malaria Deaths in Children

wed-child-tree-planting1By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 8 (IPS) – Malaria kills a child every 30 seconds, but a new diagnostic breakthrough may cut that devastating death toll, Canadian scientists announced Sunday.

The discovery of “biomarkers” — a telltale biological signature in children’s blood — that identify two of the most lethal forms of malaria was revealed at the annual meetings of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in New Orleans, Louisiana last week.

“A child with a fever may be treated in a clinic with anti-malarial drugs, but that won’t be enough to treat cerebral malaria,” said Conrad Liles, a tropical disease specialist affiliated with Toronto’s McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health (MRC).

Cerebral malaria, which develops in the brain’s blood vessels, is malaria’s most deadly form. Some 2 to 5 percent of children with malaria develop the cerebral form and 40 percent will die, Liles told IPS.

Liles and colleagues at MRC discovered a correlation between cerebral malaria and an abnormal ratio between two forms of proteins that regulate the activation of blood vessels known as angiopoietins. When an abnormal ratio is detected in a blood sample, a child could then be treated much more intensively.

mosquito-feeding-usdaField tests done with collaborators from Thailand, Noppadon Tangpukdee Srivicha Krudsood and Sornchai Looareesuwan, and Uganda, Robert Opoka and Chandy John, showed that success rates in identifying cerebral malaria were very high — 80 to 100 percent.

“Just killing the parasite is not enough because the disease can still develop,” said Liles.

Malaria is a disease of the blood caused by a parasite found inside certain species of mosquitoes. Malaria symptoms, such as fever, headache and vomiting, appear about nine to 14 days after an infectious mosquito bite. If drugs are not available for treatment or if the parasites are resistant to them, the infection can lead to coma, severe life-threatening anemia, and death.

Worldwide, malaria causes around 350 to 500 million illnesses and more than one million deaths annually.

To view complete article: HEALTH: New Diagnostic Tool Could Slash Malaria Deaths.

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