Asymptomatic Plasmodium infection and cognition among primary schoolchildren in a high malaria transmission setting in Uganda
Nankabirwa J, Wandera B, Kiwanuka N, Staedke SG, Kamya MR, Brooker SJ
Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2013;88
Asymptomatic parasitemia is common among schoolchildren living in areas of high malaria transmission, yet little is known about its effect on cognitive function in these settings. To investigate associations between asymptomatic parasitemia, anemia, and cognition among primary schoolchildren living in a high malaria transmission setting, we studied 740 children enrolled in a clinical trial in Tororo, Uganda. Parasitemia, measured by thick blood smears, was present in 30% of the children. Infected children had lower test scores for abstract reasoning (adjusted mean difference [AMD] -0.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] -1.01 to -0.21) and sustained attention (AMD -1.6 95% CI -2.40 to -0.81) compared with uninfected children. There was also evidence for a dose-response relationship between parasite density and scores for sustained attention. No associations were observed between anemia and either test of cognition. Schoolchildren in high transmission settings may experience cognitive benefits, from interventions aimed at reducing the prevalence of asymptomatic parasitemia.