News / Africa

Children at Risk Despite Malaria Treatment

Hassana Ousmane rests her head against the bed where her 21-month-old daughter, Zeinab, suffering from malaria, rests at the Princess Marie Louise Children's Hospital in Accra, Ghana, April 25, 2012.
Hassana Ousmane rests her head against the bed where her 21-month-old daughter, Zeinab, suffering from malaria, rests at the Princess Marie Louise Children's Hospital in Accra, Ghana, April 25, 2012.

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to De Capua report on malaria and inflammation

Joe DeCapua
Repeated bouts of malaria may leave children vulnerable to other deadly infections and even cardiovascular disease later in life. Now, a new study may explain why.


About 200 children in Blantyre, Malawi, took part in the study. It compares kids in one group, who have mild or the more serious cerebral malaria, to those in another group, who are healthy. Malaria is caused by the bite of an infected mosquito that transmits parasites first to the liver and then to red blood cells. Tests showed the blood vessels of the two groups of children were different – especially those with cerebral malaria.

It has to do with inflammation. It’s long been known that diseases that cause acute fevers – febrile diseases – trigger inflammation in the endothelium. That’s the smooth, thin layer of cells lining blood vessels throughout the body.

“What people hadn’t looked at was whether that resolves after you give treatment and after the fact that the febrile illness goes away,” said Dr. Chris Moxon.

Moxon is the lead author of the study and a clinical lecturer at Liverpool University. At the time of the study he was a PhD Fellow at Wellcome Trust. He says when healthy, the endothelium allows the blood to flow unrestricted, similar to Teflon coating on a non-stick cooking pan.

“We were just thinking that the burden of malaria is extremely high in Africa – in the sort of level that’s very difficult for people who haven’t lived in a malaria endemic country to understand. Children are getting sometimes, in highly endemic areas, more than one infective bite a day and many repeated infections. And we just wondered what that might do to children and their endothelium in the long term,” he said.

Moxon and his colleagues knew that mosquito control programs appeared to have effects far beyond reducing malaria cases.

He said, “There have been a number of studies that have shown in small areas if you reduce or eliminate malaria that the reduction in mortality is higher than you might expect from simply a reduction in the number of acute febrile illnesses. So we wondered whether there was another effect that malaria was having. Whether this might be that the endothelium remained activated for a longer period of time.”

By an activated endothelium, he means inflamed. There are blood tests to determine if that’s the case.

“The endothelial cells have proteins on the surface that give the endothelial cells a lot of their function. And these proteins are shed in healthy individuals, but when you get an illness and the endothelium changes they’re shed at higher levels. So you can measure these proteins in the blood and malaria changes the blood vessels. It sort of hijacks the endothelium to be able to stick to blood vessels. And that’s a sort of mechanism that the parasite uses to prevent going through the spleen and stop being cleared by our immune system,” he said.

So, if the endothelium is activated or inflamed, how does that predispose a child to other infections and possible future cardiovascular disease?

Moxon said, “If the endothelium is activated it may become more permeable. So it may become more leaky. For example, that may allow viruses or bacteria to leak and invade areas, for example, in the gut. And then cardiovascular disease, those processes of inflammation make the endothelium more leaky to allow fat to accumulate inside the blood vessel wall.”

There’s been greater awareness in recent years of inflammation’s role in a host of diseases. While more study is needed, Moxon says controlling inflammation may help in preventing other infections following bouts with malaria -- and in turn reduce child mortality. He says statins – drugs used to lower cholesterol – may be one possibility. The drugs have been shown to help reduce inflammation.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More