Can malaria penetrate the brain?
Approximately 1% of people with malaria will develop a severe form, and in these cases the brain can be affected. When the brain is affected, the condition is called cerebral malaria. Functional changes to the blood-brain barrier occur in cerebral malaria, possibly as a result of the binding of parasitized red blood cells to cerebral endothelial cells, although scientists do not really understand the mechanism. However, people suffering from cerebral malaria can have seizures, fall into a coma, or show other neurological problems.
Without treatment, cerebral malaria generally leads to death. Among children with cerebral malaria who received treatment and survived, it has been found that about a quarter (25%) have long-term problems with thought processes, motor function or have behavior impairments and 10% develop epilepsy.