Indexed on: 24 Aug '13Published on: 24 Aug '13Published in: Emerging infectious diseases
An epidemic illness characterized by head nodding associated with onchocerciasis has been described in eastern Africa since the early 1960s; we summarize published reports and recent studies. Onset of nodding occurs in previously healthy 5-15-year-old children and is often triggered by eating or cold temperatures and accompanied by cognitive impairment. Its incidence has increased in Uganda and South Sudan over the past 10 years. Four case-control studies identified modest and inconsistent associations. There were nonspecific lesions seen by magnetic resonance imaging, no cerebrospinal fluid inflammation, and markedly abnormal electroencephalography results. Nodding episodes are atonic seizures. Testing has failed to demonstrate associations with trypanosomiasis, cysticercosis, loiasis, lymphatic filariasis, cerebral malaria, measles, prion disease, or novel pathogens; or deficiencies of folate, cobalamin, pyridoxine, retinol, or zinc; or toxicity from mercury, copper, or homocysteine. There is a consistent enigmatic association with onchocerciasis detected by skin snip or serologic analysis. Nodding syndrome is an unexplained epidemic epilepsy.