Contributing towards the betterment of translational epilepsy research in Africa: needs, challenges, resources, and opportunities.

Research paper by Yohannes W YW Woldeamanuel, Belaineh B Girma

Indexed on: 10 Jul '14Published on: 10 Jul '14Published in: Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports


Epilepsy affects approximately 50 million people worldwide. Among them, at least 40 million people are currently living in the developing world, where resources and standards of care are suboptimal. Around 90 % of people with epilepsy in resource-poor countries do not currently receive appropriate treatments, at a time when two thirds of these patients could have achieved good control of their epileptic seizures had they had access to appropriate therapies. Scarcity of epilepsy specialists, poor availability or access to diagnostic facilities and treatments, poor community knowledge about epilepsy-related issues, stigma, and other societal and cultural barriers are only some of the issues contributing to this deficiency. These issues in epilepsy treatment have been well recognized, and ongoing concerted efforts to address them have been undertaken by both local authorities and international organizations. In many cases, patients resort to the use of traditional local and alternative medicines (herbs, religious practices, etc.) that are closer to indigenous cosmovision, are more holistic, and are more culture-friendly, preserving an optimum subtlety of Afrocentric character shading. Compared with imported Western medicines, patients find these approaches to be more relevant to their ways of thinking, their ways of being, and their belief systems, more accessible, and more acceptable methods of dealing with health and disease states. The impressive local wealth in these natural resources has established them as a preferred source of healing in these regions, but has also fueled interest in exploring their therapeutic potential in the very few existing local research centers. In this review, we discuss the known issues related to the epilepsy treatment gap in resource-poor regions, focusing in particular on African countries, introduce the role and issues related to the use and validation of alternative medical therapies in epilepsy, and comment on the importance and repercussions of initiatives to validate such therapies, primarily for local practices, but also for possible wider international applications.