Malaria patients more prone to epilepsy - report
Posted Sunday, February 3 2013 at 00:00
Programmes to control parasitic diseases and access to better antenatal care could substantially reduce the prevalence of epilepsy in Sub-saharan Africa, a new study has revealed.
The study on more than half a million people in five countries in the region found that adults, who had been exposed to parasitic diseases like malaria, were 1.5-3 times more likely to have epilepsy than those who had not.
The disease has previously been linked to various parasite infections but this is the first study to reveal the extent of the problem.
In children, the greatest risk factors for developing epilepsy were complications associated with delivery and head injury.
The study, conducted by International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Populations and Their Health used demographic surveillance sites in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana.
The research team also took blood samples to test for exposure to malaria, HIV and four other parasitic diseases that are common in the developing world.
The head of non-communicable diseases at the Ministry of Health, Dr Gerald Mutungi, said many epileptic patients in the country are stigmatised by the population, who attribute their sickness to witchcraft and curses.
“People suffering from epilepsy feel ashamed going to health centres. Often communities refuse to help them because of prejudices,” he said.
Dr Mutungi said the study enlightens people and should know that the disease cannot be transmitted by simply touching a sick person.
Epilepsy is one of the most common serious brain disorders, affecting at least 50 million people worldwide.