Cerebral malaria and the hemolysis/methemoglobin/heme hypothesis: shedding new light on an old disease

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2009 Apr;41(4):711-6. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2008.09.020. Epub 2008 Sep 27.


Malaria causes more than 1 million deaths every year with cerebral malaria (CM) being a major cause of death in Sub-Saharan African children. The nature of the malaria-associated pathogenesis is complex and multi-factorial. A unified hypothesis involving sequestration of infected red blood cells, systemic host inflammatory response and hemostasis dysfunction has been proposed to explain the genesis of CM. In this review, we discuss the role of hemolysis, methemoglobin and free heme in CM, brought to light by our recent studies in mice as well as by other studies in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Heme / metabolism*
  • Hemolysis
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Cerebral / blood*
  • Malaria, Cerebral / enzymology
  • Methemoglobin / metabolism*


  • Heme
  • Methemoglobin