The amount of rainfall affects the number of infant infections leading to hydrocephalus in Uganda, according to a team of researchers who are the first to demonstrate that these brain infections are linked to climate.
Hydrocephalus -- literally "water on the brain" -- is characterized by the build-up of the fluid that is normally within and surrounding the brain, leading to brain swelling. The swelling will cause brain damage or death if not treated. Even if treated, there is only a one-third chance of a child maintaining a normal life after post-infectious hydrocephalus develops, and that chance is dependent on whether the child has received the best treatment possible.
"The most common need for a child to require neurosurgery around the world is hydrocephalus," said Steven J. Schiff, the Brush Chair Professor of Engineering, director of the Penn State Center for Neural Engineering and a team member.
In sub-Saharan Africa, upward of 100,000 cases of post-infectious hydrocephalus a year are estimated to occur. The majority of these cases occur after a newborn has suffered from neonatal sepsis, a blood infection that occurs within the first four weeks of life, the researchers reported in a recent issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.
Benjamin C. Warf, associate professor of neurosurgery, Harvard Medical School, Boston Children's Hospital, noticed that about three or four months after an infant in East Africa had an infection like neonatal sepsis, the child would often return to the clinic with a rapidly growing head -- hydrocephalus. Schiff joined Warf to help figure out what caused this disease so frequently.
Schiff and colleagues tracked 696 hydrocephalus cases in Ugandan infants between the years 2000 and 2005. The researchers obtained localized rainfall data for the same time frame through NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather satellites using the African Rainfall Estimation Algorithm developed at the U.S. NOAA Climate Prediction Center.
Uganda has two peak rainfall seasons, in spring and fall. By comparing the data from NOAA and the hydrocephalus cases, the researchers found that instances of the disorder rose significantly at four different times throughout the year -- before and after the peak of each rainy season, when the amount of rainfall was at intermediate levels. In Uganda an intermediate rainfall is about 6 inches of rain per month.
Schiff and colleagues previously noted that different bacteria appear associated with post-infectious hydrocephalus at different seasons of the year. While the researchers have not yet characterized the full spectrum of bacteria causing hydrocephalus in so many infants, they note that environmental conditions affect conditions supporting bacterial growth, and that the amount of rain can quench bacterial infections. The moisture level clearly affects the number of cases of hydrocephalus in this region of East Africa.
"Hydrocephalus is the first major neurosurgical condition linked to climate," said Schiff, who is also professor of neurosurgery, engineering science and mechanics, and physics, and a faculty member of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. "This means that a substantial component of these cases are almost certainly driven from the environmental conditions, and that means they are potentially preventable if we understand the routes and mechanisms of infection better."
Penn State: http://live.psu.edu
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Free-living songbirds show increased stress hormone levels when nesting under white street lights. But different light spectra may have different physiological effects as this study finds, suggesting that using street lights with specific colour spectra may mitigate effects of light pollution on wildlife
Scientists identify the condition aphantasia, in which people cannot create images in their head
The dust in our homes contains an average of 9,000 different types of fungi and bacteria, a study suggests.
A mosquito can bear up to 23 times its total body weight on each leg, which is crucial for landing on water – the insect's secret is way it stands
Tropical species with smaller geographical ranges are more likely to die out in a warming climate than those that can adapt by ‘invading’ new regions
Most people think of bacteria as germs, signs of filth, or unwanted bringers of disease. Slowly, that view …
The gloomy octopuses crowded at Jervis Bay, Australia, appear to spit and throw debris such as shell at each other in what could be an intentional use of weapons
Therapies based on hormones that make us more trusting enhance our natural placebo effect – a finding that could alter the way clinical trials are conducted
The blind, hairless babies born recently at Washington D.C.'s National Zoo are completely dependent on their mothers—who can sometimes accidentally crush them.
The poop-hoarding insects have an amazingly advanced internal GPS that allows them to navigate by day or night.