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A retrospective study of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) markers of brain parenchymal damage was conducted in Vietnamese adults with severe malaria. Three markers were analysed by immunoassays: the microtubule-associated protein tau, for degenerated axons; neuron-specific enolase (NSE), for neurons; and S100B for astrocytes. The mean concentration of tau proteins in the CSF was significantly raised in patients with severe malaria compared with controls (P=0.0003) as reported for other central nervous system diseases. By contrast, the mean concentration of NSE and S100B remained within the normal range. Tau levels were associated with duration of coma (P=0.004) and S100B was associated with convulsions (P=0.006). Concentrations of axonal and astrocyte degeneration markers also were associated with vital organ dysfunction. No association was found between the level of markers of brain parenchymal damage on admission and a fatal outcome. On admission to hospital, patients with severe malaria had biochemical evidence of brain parenchymal damage predominantly affecting axons.

Original publication




Journal article


Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg

Publication Date





610 - 617


Adult, Biomarkers, Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay, Female, Humans, Malaria, Cerebral, Male, Middle Aged, Nerve Growth Factors, Phosphopyruvate Hydratase, Prognosis, Retrospective Studies, S100 Calcium Binding Protein beta Subunit, S100 Proteins, tau Proteins