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Cerebral Malaria: A New Way Forward with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

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  • 1 Department of Clinical Tropical Medicine and Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, and Department of Radiology, Ramathibodi Hospital, Faculty of Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand; Departments of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering and of Pediatrics and Medicine, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York

Magnetic resonance studies offer a new way through the impasse that now seems to block further progress in disentangling the pathogenesis and improving the treatment of cerebral malaria, a catastrophic neurologic complication of infection with Plasmodium falciparum. The underlying mechanisms responsible for coma in cerebral malaria are still unknown and the relative contributions of the microvascular sequestration of infected erythrocytes, the inflammatory response to P. falciparum, disordered hemostasis, and other factors remain controversial. For more than a century, neuropathologic studies have provided the basis for concepts of causation of cerebral malaria. Magnetic resonance techniques now offer non-invasive means of determining essential anatomic, metabolic, biochemical, and functional features of the brain in patients with cerebral malaria during life that could transform our understanding of the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria and lead to the development of new neuroprotective treatments.

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