Cerebral malaria: optimising management

Mturi N, Musumba CO, Wamola BM, Ogutu BR, Newton CR
CNS Drugs. 2003;17

Permenent descriptor

Cerebral malaria is one of the most common nontraumatic encephalopathies in the world. Children living in sub-Saharan Africa bear the brunt of the disease, but cerebral malaria is being seen increasingly in adults throughout the world, including outside malarious areas. There are differences in the clinical presentation and pathophysiology between African children and nonimmune adults from any region. Mortality is high (10-20%). Parenteral antimalarials are the only interventions that have been shown to affect outcome. The cinchona alkaloids (quinine and quinidine) are the mainstay of antimalarial treatment, but the artemisinin derivatives are increasingly being used. Aggressive treatment and prevention of convulsions may be important, particularly in children. Other ancillary treatments that can be used to augment standard antimalarial drugs, such as exchange blood transfusions, osmotic diuretics and pentoxifylline, may improve outcome but have not been subjected to rigorous clinical trials. There is little support for corticosteroids or deferoxamine (desferrioxamine) in cerebral malaria. Other adjuncts have not been adequately tested. Further research is required on drugs that interfere with the pathophysiological processes to prevent neurological complications and death.