Abstract

This paper reviews the neurological complications of malaria. Cerebral malaria, the acute encephalopathy which complicates exclusively the infection by Plasmodium falciparum commonly affects children and adolescents in hyperendemic areas. Plugging of cerebral capillaries and venules by clumped, parasitized red blood cells causing blood sludging in the capillary circulation is one hypothesis to explain its pathogenesis. The other is a humoral hypothesis which proposes a nonspecific, immune-mediated, inflammatory response with release of vasoactive substances capable of producing endothelial damage and alterations of permeability. Cerebral malaria has a mortality rate up to 50%, and also a considerable longterm morbidity, particularly in children. Hypoglycemia, largely in patients treated with quinine, may complicate the cerebral symptomatology. Other central nervous manifestations of malaria include intracranial hemorrhage, cerebral arterial occlusions, and transient extrapyramidal and neuropsychiatric manifestations. A self-limiting, isolated cerebellar ataxia, presumably caused by immunological mechanisms, in patients recovering from falciparum malaria has been recongized in Sri Lanka. Malaria is a common cause of febrile seizures in the tropics, and it also contributes to the development of epilepsy in later life. Several reports of spinal cord and peripheral nerve involvement are also available. A transient muscle paralysis resembling periodic paralysis during febrile episodes of malaria has been described in some patients. The pathogenesis of these neurological manifestations in malaria remains unexplored, but offers excellent perspectives for research at clinical as well as experiment level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)672-680
Number of pages9
JournalSoutheast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health
Volume23
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases

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