Vector-borne protozoal infections of the CNS: cerebral malaria, sleeping sickness and Chagas disease

Gagandeep Singh, Alfred K Njamnshi, Ley Sander
Current Opinion in Neurology 2021 March 11

PURPOSE OF THE REVIEW: Malaria, Chagas Disease and Human African Trypanosomiasis are vector-borne protozoan illnesses, frequently associated with neurological manifestations. Intriguing but ignored, limited mainly to resource-limited, tropical settings, these disorders are now coming to light because of globalisation and improved diagnosis and treatment. Enhanced understanding of these illnesses has prompted this review.

RECENT FINDINGS: Methods of diagnosis have currently transitioned from blood smear examinations to immunological assays and molecular methods. Tools to assess neurological involvement, such as magnetic resonance imaging, are now increasingly available in regions and countries with high infection loads. Sleep and other electrophysiological technologies (electroencephalography, actigraphy) are also promising diagnostic tools but requiring field-validation. Access to treatments was formerly limited, even as limitations of agents used in the treatment are increasingly recognised. Newer agents are now being developed and trialled, encouraged by improved understanding of the disorders' molecular underpinnings.

SUMMARY: Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial in ensuring cure from the infections. Attention should also be due to the development of globally applicable treatment guidelines, the burden of neurological sequelae and elimination of the zoonoses from currently endemic regions.

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