The Star (Nairobi)

East Africa: Wiping Out Parasites Reduces Epilepsy Threat - Study

Poor Antenatal care and parasites have been linked to high prevalence of Epilepsy in Kenya and sub Saharan Africa. A study conducted in the country and its neighbouring states of Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana and South Africa revealed that epilepsy significantly more prevalent in poorer countries and rural areas.

The study, conducted at International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Populations and Their Health (INDEPTH) demographic surveillance screened 586,607 residents and identified 1711 that 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 lifestyle habits. The 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 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.

Kenya medical research institute, KEMRI researcher Charles Newton from the Welcome Trust programme said the study demonstrated that many cases of epilepsy could be entirely preventable with elimination of parasites in Africa.

"In some areas parasites have been controlled, So in some areas the incidence of epilepsy could be reduced by 30-60 percent with appropriate control measures" Said Newton.

The team found that adults who had been exposed to parasitic diseases 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. In children, the greatest risk factors for developing epilepsy were complications associated with delivery and head injury.

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