Research projects in Brazil and Cameroon will each receive £10,000 of funding, thanks to the Encephalitis Society.

They are the first two successful applicants of Encephalitis Futures, our International Research Seed Funding project, which was launched at the end of last year to coincide with our 25th anniversary and to encourage innovative research projects into encephalitis. In total, we received 11 applications from six countries.

Dr Ava Easton, Chief Executive of the Encephalitis Society, talks about the winning projects.

Instituto de Medicina Tropical de São Paulo, University of Sao Paolo, Brazil

Project Title: Encephalitis’ clinical and laboratorial characteristics during a triple epidemic of dengue, Zika and chikungunya

Brazil saw an outbreak of three causes of encephalitis – dengue, Zika, and chikungunya.

The seed funding will allow analysis of stored spinal fluid and blood samples, specifically looking for a biomarker called light chain neurofilaments. This biomarker specifically indicates the degeneration of brain cells. The researchers hope to identify which disease causes more damage, and whether damage is more significant if more than one cause is present.

Patients will also be followed up at one year to see whether that damage is sustained. Ultimately we will know whether this particular biomarker is a good indicator for injury to the brain.

This work, if the hypothesis is correct, will lead to a much larger study and will have important consequences for encephalitis patient death and disability worldwide.

Tropical Diseases Research Centre, Cameroon

Project Title: Aetiologies, clinical presentation and neuro-cognitive outcomes of non-HIV associated encephalitis in Cameroon - exploring a neglected disease in a low income African country

Acute infectious encephalitis is a frequent infectious disease associated with high mortality rates. It is caused by different aetiological agents and manifests with a wide range of clinical signs.

Encephalitis management guidelines in low and middle-income countries (LMIC) are limited by the absence of local epidemiological data, leading to delays or even absence of adequate treatment. Current empirical treatment based on non-specific signs and symptoms is a 'blind' treatment strategy, contributing to death. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify the aetiological agents of encephalitis in LMIC, Cameroon being one.

The Cameroon project intends to investigate the causes and pathogen-specific elements in the clinical presentation of encephalitis in HIV-negative adults from all areas of the country. To achieve this goal, they will perform analysis on cerebrospinal fluid, as well as imaging. Additionally, they will describe survival rates, and outcomes of encephalitis in terms of physical and neuropsychological sequelae, associating clinical observations with the pathogen type and brain imaging findings.

The results will allow them to adapt diagnostic algorithms and treatment protocols to the regional variations in pathogen distribution. In short, this study may result in lives saved and disability reduced as well as a much larger study in due course.

*The next round of seed funding will open later this year.

We Need Your Help

Make a donation and help us to fund research which can save lives and bring hope to people affected by encephalitis.