Cerebral malaria: clinical features, pathophysiology and treatment.
Herbert Gilles played an important role in the establishment of the Wellcome-Mahidol University, Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Programme in Thailand in 1979. The randomized, placebo-controlled trial of dexamethasone in cerebral malaria that was carried out in Chantaburi in 1980 yielded results which led to the abandonment of ancillary corticosteroid therapy in this disease and contributed to a rejection of the 'permeability hypothesis'. The clinical manifestations of strictly defined cerebral malaria have not been described both in non-immune adults in Thailand and Vietnam and in African children. Clinical and histopathological studies in human patients, together with laboratory studies of cyto-adherence, malaria 'toxin' and cytokine production have provided some evidence for both the 'mechanical' and 'toxin-cytokine' hypotheses to explain the pathophysiology of this condition. Chemotherapy is challenged by the continuing evolution of antimalarial resistance. Recently, the most powerful studies ever carried out with antimalarial drugs have demonstrated that artemether and quinine achieve similar case fatalities, in the range 11%-21%, and that both drugs have some advantages and disadvantages. Further studies are needed to define the efficacy and safety of prophylactic anticonvulsants and exchange transfusion in cerebral malaria. Cerebral malaria remains a major cause of mortality and, in African children, morbidity.