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May 1978

Cerebral Malaria: A Disseminated Vasculomyelinopathy

Author Affiliations

From the National University of Colombia School of Medicine, and the National Institute of Health of Colombia, Bogotá. Dr Román is now with the University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington.

Arch Neurol. 1978;35(5):271-275. doi:10.1001/archneur.1978.00500290017004

• Neuropathologic examination of 19 fatal cases of cerebral malaria and a review of the literature showed that the epidemiologic, clinical, and pathologic features of this entity suggest consideration of cerebral malaria as a form of disseminated vasculomyelinopathy, a hyperergic reaction of the CNS to the antigenic challenge of Plasmodium falciparum infection. Experimental evidence also substantiates this view.

The initial event seems to be vasculopathy, with alteration of the endothelial permeability, followed by brain edema, perivascular infiltrates and ring hemorrhages, perivascular demyelination, and gliosis (malarial granuloma) in the late stages. This chain of events could be interrupted early in its course by corticosteroids. Parenteral dexamethasone should then be seriously considered at the first signs of involvement of the CNS during p falciparum malaria along with the standard forms of antimalarial therapy.