Why do children develop cerebral malaria?

The clinical syndromes of severe malaria are relatively rare, and while this seems an odd thing to say given the large number of deaths seen from this infection, the proportion of malaria infections that result in severe disease is low. Therefore, we need to understand why some infections go on to develop life-threatening illness such as cerebral malaria, whilst others are relatively benign. The basis for this is clearly multifactorial, with genetic predisposition and immune status major factors in the aetiology of disease. My group's interest has focused on a process called cytoadherence that results in the accumulation of Plasmodium falciparum infected red blood cells in the small blood vessels of a range of organs. My talk will address issues around binding in different tissues in the host and the effect of this binding once established. Our aim is that through understanding the processes leading to pathology in cerebral malaria, we can look to design adjunct therapies to reduce mortality and morbidity in this disease.

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