Study finds parasites and poor antenatal care are main causes of epilepsy in Africa

January 30, 2013

The largest study of epilepsy in sub-Saharan Africa to date reveals that programmes to control parasitic diseases and access to better antenatal care could substantially reduce the prevalence of the disease in this region.

Epilepsy is one of the most common worldwide and it is well known that it is significantly more prevalent in poorer countries and rural areas. The study of over half a million people in five countries of sub-Saharan Africa is the first to reveal the true extent of the problem and the impact of different risk factors.

The study, conducted at International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Populations and Their Health (INDEPTH) demographic surveillance sites in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana, screened 586,607 residents and identified 1711 who were diagnosed as having active convulsive epilepsy. These individuals, along with 2033 who did not have epilepsy, were given a questionnaire to complete about their . The team also took to test for exposure to malaria, HIV and four other parasitic diseases that are common in the developing world.

The team found that adults who had been exposed to were 1.5-3 times more likely to have epilepsy than those who had not. Epilepsy has previously been linked with various parasite infections but this is the first study to reveal the extent of the problem.

Professor Charles Newton from the Wellcome Trust programme at the Kenyan Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University, who led the study, said: "This study demonstrates that many cases of epilepsy could be entirely preventable with elimination of parasites in Africa, some of which for example have been controlled in some areas. In some areas the incidence of epilepsy could be reduced by 30-60% with appropriate ."

In children, the greatest for developing epilepsy were complications associated with delivery and head injury. Interventions to improve antenatal and perinatal care could substantially reduce the prevalence of epilepsy in this region, say the authors.

The study focused on people with convulsive epilepsies as they are the most reliably detected and reported and there remains a substantial stigma attached to patients with the disease.

"Facilities for diagnosis, treatment and on-going management of epilepsy are virtually non-existent in many of the world's poorest regions and so it's vital that we take these simple steps to try and prevent as many cases of this debilitating disease as possible," Professor Newton added.

Explore further: Study highlights the burden of epilepsy in the developing world

More information: A.K. Ngugi et al. Prevalence of active convulsive epilepsy in sub-Saharan Africa and associated risk factors: cross-sectional and case-control studies. Lancet Neurology, 31 January 2013.

Related Stories

Study highlights the burden of epilepsy in the developing world

September 27, 2012
The burden of epilepsy in poorer parts of the world could be readily alleviated by reducing the preventable causes and improving access to treatment, according to a review article published today in the Lancet.

Study finds bidirectional relationship between schizophrenia and epilepsy

September 19, 2011
Researchers from Taiwan have confirmed a bidirectional relation between schizophrenia and epilepsy. The study published today in Epilepsia, a journal of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE), reports that patients ...

Evidence of familial vulnerability for epilepsy and psychosis

May 2, 2012
Although the two disorders may seem dissimilar, epilepsy and psychosis are associated. Individuals with epilepsy are more likely to have schizophrenia, and a family history of epilepsy is a risk factor for psychosis. It is ...

Recommended for you

Schizophrenia originates early in pregnancy, 'mini-brain' research suggests

November 20, 2017
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually appear in adolescence or young adulthood, but new research reveals that the brain disease likely begins very early in development, toward the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. The ...

MRI uncovers brain abnormalities in people with depression and anxiety

November 20, 2017
Researchers using MRI have discovered a common pattern of structural abnormalities in the brains of people with depression and social anxiety, according to a study presented being next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological ...

Theory: Flexibility is at the heart of human intelligence

November 19, 2017
Centuries of study have yielded many theories about how the brain gives rise to human intelligence. Some neuroscientists think intelligence springs from a single region or neural network. Others argue that metabolism or the ...

Investigating patterns of degeneration in Alzheimer's disease

November 17, 2017
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is known to cause memory loss and cognitive decline, but other functions of the brain can remain intact. The reasons cells in some brain regions degenerate while others are protected is largely unknown. ...

Study may point to new treatment approach for ASD

November 17, 2017
Using sophisticated genome mining and gene manipulation techniques, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have solved a mystery that could lead to a new treatment approach for autism spectrum disorder ...

Neuroscientists find chronic stress skews decisions toward higher-risk options

November 16, 2017
Making decisions is not always easy, especially when choosing between two options that have both positive and negative elements, such as deciding between a job with a high salary but long hours, and a lower-paying job that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.