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Global Health
May 15, 2013

Cognitive Effects of Konzo

JAMA. 2013;309(19):1985. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.4960

Konzo, an irreversible neuromotor disorder in children that has been linked to ingestion of bitter cassava root, a staple food in sub-Saharan Africa, also undermines cognitive function, even in those with no physical symptoms of the disease, report researchers from Michigan State University, East Lansing (Boivin MJ et al. Pediatrics. 2013;131[4]:e1231-e1239).

Cyanide in bitter cassava root is degraded when properly prepared. But shortcuts in preparation that are often taken in times of war and famine can cause outbreaks of konzo, which causes gait and movement abnormalities. (Konzo means “tired legs” in the Yaka language.)

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