Hydrocephalus in Ugandan children and other developing countries is seasonal, linked to farm animals and in part, caused by previous bacterial infection, according to an international team of researchers from Uganda and the United States, who believe that the best approach to this problem is prevention.
"Hydrocephalus in infants in developing countries is a grand medical mystery," said Steven Schiff, the Brush Chair professor of engineering and director, Penn State Center for Neural Engineering.
Hydrocephalus is a build up of the fluid that normally surrounds the brain. The increased pressure causes the head to swell and damages brain tissue. Treatment includes placing a shunt to drain the fluid, but inevitably these shunts become plugged and require emergency care, not always available in rural Africa and other resource-limited regions of the developing world. Surgeons vigorously explore the use of new brain endoscopes to divert fluid buildup internally in such children, but this approach addresses the fluid and does not fix previous infection damage to the brain.