Adjuvant therapy in cerebral malaria

Indian J Med Res. 2006 Sep;124(3):245-60.


Cerebral malaria is the most common cause of non-traumatic encephalopathy in the world. The mainstay of therapy is either quinine or artemisinin, both of which are effective antimalarials. The clinical picture of cerebral malaria may persist or even become worse in spite of the clearance of parasites from blood. The death rate is unacceptably high even with effective antimalarials in tertiary care hospitals. The mortality increases in presence of multi organ failure (renal failure, jaundice, respiratory distress, severe anaemia, lactic acidosis, etc.). The pathogenesis of cerebral malaria is multifactorial and includes clogging, sequestration, rosette formation, release of cytokines, cerebral oedema, increased intracranial hypertension, etc. Attempts are made to use adjuvant therapy which will act through alternate mechanisms and address one or more of the pathogenetic processes. In this review, we have discussed the role of corticosteroids, pentoxifylline, desferrioxamine, mannitol and newer agents in the treatment of cerebral malaria. Though the literature on adjuvant therapy in cerebral malaria is large enough, there are a number of shortcomings in the clinical trials, many being open and non randomized or of very small sample size. Further research is of utmost importance through large multicentric, double-blind controlled trials to show the efficacy of any of these drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiopathology
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / methods
  • Deferoxamine / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Cerebral / drug therapy*
  • Malaria, Cerebral / physiopathology*
  • Malaria, Cerebral / prevention & control
  • Mannitol / therapeutic use*
  • Pentoxifylline / therapeutic use*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Antimalarials
  • Mannitol
  • Deferoxamine
  • Pentoxifylline