Review Article: blood-brain barrier in falciparum malaria

Gitau EN, Newton CR
Trop Med Int Health. 2005;10

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Plasmodium falciparum malaria is the most important parasitic disease infecting the central nervous system of humans worldwide. The pathogenesis of the neurological complications of falciparum malaria remains unclear. In particular, how do asexual parasites confined to the vascular space of the brain cause neuronal impairment? The evidence for a breakdown in the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is conflicting. In some animal models of malaria, there is evidence of breakdown of the BBB, but the data from humans suggests the BBB is mildly impaired only, with few morphological changes. Whether these changes in the BBB are sufficient to account for the neurological complications remains to be determined.