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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid