Epileptic seizures and malaria in Kenyan children

Waruiru CM, Newton CR, Forster D, New L, Winstanley P, Mwangi I, Marsh V, Winstanley M, Snow RW, Marsh K
Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1996;90

Permenent descriptor

Between October 1990 and November 1991 data were collected on the frequency, causes, and nature of epileptic seizures in children admitted to the paediatric ward at Kilifi District Hospital, Kenya, from a defined study area. During this period, 1324 children were studied, of whom 15.8% had seizures as part of their illness. Malaria was by far the commonest cause of seizures, accounting for 69.0%; no other single condition caused more than 4.4%. The proportion of respiratory infections complicated by seizures was 4.0% compared to 31.3% for malaria. Only 25% of malaria-related epileptic seizures were associated with cerebral malaria; the remainder were associated with otherwise uncomplicated malaria and, in this group, 84% had complex seizures, with 47% being partial and over 70% repetitive. There was no relationship with fever, with 54% of observed seizures occurring at rectal temperatures below 38 degrees C. The minimum community incidence of complex seizures in association with non-cerebral malaria was 5.8 per 1000 per year. Complex epileptic seizures in association with otherwise uncomplicated malaria are common and may be a significant cause of longer term morbidity in malaria endemic areas.