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Global Health
April 18, 2017

Potential Cause of Nodding Syndrome Identified

JAMA. 2017;317(15):1517. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.3089

Nodding syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that has affected thousands of children between the ages of 5 and 15 years in East Africa, may be caused by an inappropriate immune reaction to the parasitic worm, Onchocerca volvulus, that causes onchocerciasis (river blindness), according to a report published in Science Translational Medicine.

First documented in Tanzania in the 1960s, nodding syndrome has remained an untreatable disease characterized by seizures, neurological deterioration, and a high rate of death. Although the cause of nodding syndrome has been elusive, an increase in the condition in areas where the parasite O volvulus is endemic suggests that infection with the worm plays a role in disease pathogenesis.

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