Nav: Home

Drug could reverse scourge of cerebral malaria for survivors

May 01, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State University researchers, with the help of a groundbreaking medical device, are starting a clinical trial in Africa they hope will provide relief for the hundreds of thousands of children who survive cerebral malaria but are left stricken with epilepsy or other neurologic disorders.

The impact of those disorders via loss of human potential and lack of societal contribution is immeasurable, said Gretchen Birbeck, a professor of neurology and ophthalmology in the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Birbeck is leading the trial in the central African nation of Malawi that will use levetiracetam, or LVT, an anti-seizure medication used in the United States and other developed nations. However, the drug has never been tested to target cerebral malaria seizures.

"Seizure management in malaria endemic regions such as sub-Sahara Africa is challenging because the available antiepileptic drugs can suppress respiration, and assisted ventilation is unavailable," Birbeck said. "LVT does not have that effect, and if we can optimize a seizure control treatment that is both affordable and accessible in resource-limited settings, we may be able to improve neurologic outcomes in cerebral malaria survivors."

The research, part of MSU's Blantyre Malaria Project at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, is being funded with a nearly $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Cerebral malaria is a severe form of malaria affecting the brain, occurring predominantly in children, with a mortality rate of 15-25 percent. It affects about three million children every year, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa.

Almost a third of cerebral malaria survivors develop epilepsy or other neurologic disorders, according to research Birbeck - also director of MSU's International Neurologic & Psychiatric Epidemiology Program - published previously in The Lancet Neurology.

The new clinical trial will test the safety and feasibility of LVT to control seizures in children specifically with cerebral malaria. Instead of delivering the drug intravenously, which is too costly for most developing nations such as Malawi, it will be given via a tube in the nasal passage, an effective method in hospitals and clinics that lack resources.

About 40 children will be selected for the trial. If all safety standards are met, dosage will be increased until 75 percent of children are free of seizures for 24 hours (typically, only 20 percent of children admitted with cerebral malaria and seizures are seizure free in the first 24 hours).

To accurately test whether children are staying seizure free, MSU is collaborating with New York-based biotechnology firm Bio-Signal Group, which has created a portable, wireless EEG monitoring device, called microEEG that can accommodate up to 32 electrodes and connects via Bluetooth technology to a small monitoring machine.

"Unfortunately, many children who survive malaria continue to have seizures with no physical symptoms, but their brains still are being damaged," Birbeck said. "To evaluate the effectiveness of LVT, we need continuous EEG monitoring, which is very tough to do even in the best environment."

Bio-Signal's microEEG features a monitor the size of a deck of cards that can be worn on the arm, with a collection of wires going to the electrodes on the child's head. The monitor then transfers data in real-time to a computer, where it quickly can be analyzed and shared with colleagues.

"This state-of-the-art technology, which we believe can be used effectively in our resource-limited setting, allows us to conduct this trial," Birbeck said.

If the clinical trial shows LVT can be safe and potentially effective for seizure control in cerebral malaria, Birbeck and her team will proceed with a phase III randomized clinical trial.

"Since LVT is relatively affordable for short-term use and feasibly could be delivered in resource-limited settings, this therapy could potentially be scaled up for broad use throughout malaria endemic African countries," she said.
-end-
Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.

Michigan State University

Related Epilepsy Articles:

Good news for kids with epilepsy
There's good news for kids with epilepsy. While several new drugs have come out in the last several years for adults with epilepsy, making those drugs available for children and teenagers has been delayed due to the challenges of testing new drugs on children.
People with epilepsy: Tell us about rare risk of death
People with epilepsy want their health care providers to tell them about a rare risk of death associated with the disorder, according to a preliminary study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 69th Annual Meeting in Boston, April 22 to 28, 2017.
New epilepsy gene network identified by scientists
Scientists have discovered a gene network in the brain associated with epilepsy.
Epilepsy -- why do seizures sometimes continue after surgery?
New research from the University of Liverpool, published in the journal Brain, has highlighted the potential reasons why many patients with severe epilepsy still continue to experience seizures even after surgery.
Redox biomarker could predict progression of epilepsy
Approximately 2.9 million people in the United States suffer from epilepsy, according to the CDC.
More Epilepsy News and Epilepsy Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...