Senior co-author Dr. Guy Zimmerman, associate chairman for research in the Department of Medicine at the University of Utah said malaria, a parasitic infection that is transmitted to humans by a female mosquito, is a severe, potentially fatal neurologic complication of infection by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum.
Studies of children with cerebral malaria showed cognitive deficits, such as impaired memory, learning, language and mathematical abilities -- long after the infection itself is cured, Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman and his Brazilian colleagues evaluated the effect of statins -- drug used to lower cholesterol -- in a mouse model of cerebral malaria. The researchers found that adding a drug lovastatin to traditional anti-malarial therapy prevented cognitive dysfunction in mice infected with cerebral malaria.
"The fact that statin treatment decreases both injurious blood vessel inflammation and cognitive dysfunction suggests that a combination of vascular and inflammatory triggers leads to cerebral pathology and intellectual deficits," Zimmerman said in a statement. "Our findings are exciting because the clinical implications extend beyond cerebral malaria to other severe systemic inflammatory syndromes complicated by brain involvement."
The findings were published in PLOS Pathogens.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]