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[Published: Tuesday December 09 2008]

Malaria 'early warning' test hope

Ottawa, 08 Dec-(ANA)-Scientists hope new research may help cut the death toll from two of malaria's most lethal forms.

Placental malaria and cerebral malaria kill hundreds of thousands of young children a year, with the cerebral form deadly in up to 40% of cases.

The Canadian researchers say they have discovered a distinctive chemical signature for each type.

This gives the option of earlier, or more intense treatment in those who need it, they say.

Billions of people worldwide are under threat from malaria, and the death toll from its various forms is thought to exceed a million a year.

Children can be vulnerable to the disease even before birth, if their mothers - particularly those expecting their first child - develop placental malaria during pregnancy. It causes the birth of underdeveloped or low birthweight babies and the threat of severe anaemia or death to the woman.

However, it was unclear exactly how the malaria parasite could cause these problems.

Specialists from Toronto's McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health found the women with placental malaria carried a protein called C5a in their blood.

This appears to contribute to an excessive immune response, causing inflammation in the placenta and getting in the way of normal blood vessel growth.

This might well stop the baby getting enough nutrients during pregnancy.

Dr Kevin Kain, who led the research, said: "A test that helps detect placental malaria means women can be treated earlier in pregnancy, reducing the risk of death or  anaemia for them." (ANA)

FA/ANA/08 December 2008---




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