Prevalence, causes, and behavioral and emotional comorbidities of acute symptomatic seizures in Africa: A critical review
Seizures with fever includes both febrile seizures (due to nonneurological febrile infections) and acute symptomatic seizures (due to neurological febrile infections). The cumulative incidence (lifetime prevalence) of febrile seizures in children aged =6 years is 2-5% in American and European studies, but there are no community-based data on acute symptomatic seizures in Africa. The incidence of acute symptomatic seizures in sub-Saharan Africa is more than twice that in high-income countries. However, most studies of acute symptomatic seizures from Africa are based on hospital samples or do not conduct surveys in demographic surveillance systems, which underestimates the burden. It is difficult to differentiate between febrile seizures and acute symptomatic seizures in Africa, especially in malaria-endemic areas where malaria parasites can sequester in the brain microvasculature; but this challenge can be addressed by robust identification of underlying causes. The proportion of complex acute symptomatic seizures (i.e., seizures that are focal, repetitive, or prolonged) in Africa are twice that reported in other parts of the world (>60% vs. approximately 30%), which is often attributed to falciparum malaria. These complex phenotypes of acute symptomatic seizures can be associated with behavioral and emotional problems in high-income countries, and outcomes may be even worse in Africa. One Kenyan study reported behavioral and emotional problems in approximately 10% of children admitted with acute symptomatic seizures, but it is not clear whether the behavioral and emotional problems were due to the seizures, shared genetic susceptibility, etiology, or underlying neurological damage. The underlying neurological damage in acute symptomatic seizures can lead not only to behavioral and emotional problems but also to neurocognitive impairment and epilepsy. Electroencephalography may have a prognostic role in African children with acute symptomatic seizures. There are significant knowledge gaps regarding acute symptomatic seizures in Africa, which results in lack of reliable estimates for planning interventions. Future epidemiological studies of acute symptomatic seizures should be set up in Africa.