Steroids play a major role in treatment of patients contracting Covid-19. But if they are suffering from malaria along with coronavirus infection, then steroids may prove fatal for them, says a study conducted by Indian Institute of Technology Indore.
The study was conducted by group leader of Infection Bioengineering Group at IIT Indore Dr Hem Chandra Jha on possible impacts of plasmodium falciparum (malaria) and SARS-CoV-2 co-infection.
His students Omkar Indari and Budhadev Baral besides Prof Nimal Kumar Mohakud and a team from KIMS, Odisha, joined Jha in the research.
This is the first study addressing deadly neurological impacts resulting from dual infection of malaria parasite and Covid-19 causing virus.
“The Covid-19 has affected world including the areas where malaria spread is predominant. Malaria and Covid-19 have many overlapping symptoms like fever, body ache, nausea, difficulty in breathing etc. During this tough time of pandemic, the patients showing such symptoms are treated by focusing on chance of highly transmitting SARS-CoV-2 virus. Due to this, presence of other infections like malaria may face negligence,” Jha said.
“Current study sheds light on severity of such a co-infection. The exaggeration of host immune response against parasite-virus duo has been observed in terms of haematological and biochemical reports. The study demonstrated worsening of health condition in very less time span in co-infected scenario,” he added.
“Further, the development of unusual neurological symptoms was observed, which consecutively showed lethal impact. Importantly, the viral infection in body may develop condition for malaria parasite infected cells that accumulate in small blood vessels known as blood capillaries. This can occur in brain capillaries developing cerebral malaria like conditions and neurological symptoms like altered consciousness, coma etc, which can be fatal,” he went on to add.
In case of treatments, the widely used corticosteroid- dexamethasone has earlier shown to be effective against severe Covid-19 but deleterious against cerebral malaria, the study says.
The study suggest avoiding use of this therapy in severe case of Covid-19 plus malaria positive status. The study stresses on more research for addressing Covid-19 and associated co-infections. Moreover, in malaria endemic regions, the suspected Covid-19 patients should always be tested for malaria, according to the study.