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Nodding Syndrome Could Be Triggered By Parasitic Worm Also Responsible For River Blindness, Study Says

The Economist: The cause of nodding syndrome
“Nodding syndrome is a form of epilepsy that strikes children, mostly between the ages of five and 15. Despite the innocuous name, it is debilitating. It robs its victims of their mental capacity, stunts their growth, and causes both the characteristic ‘nodding-off’ motion which gives its name and more serious seizures, often when a child is being fed. The exact death rate is unknown, but it is high. The syndrome is also something of a medical mystery…” (2/18).

NPR: Scientists May Have Solved The Mystery Of Nodding Syndrome
“Scientists may have solved the mystery of nodding syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that has disabled thousands of children in East Africa. The syndrome seems to be caused by the immune system’s response to a parasitic worm, an international team reports in the journal Science Translational Medicine. And they think it’s the same worm responsible for river blindness, an eye infection that’s also found in East Africa…” (Hamilton, 2/15).

Science: Mystery nodding syndrome may be triggered by parasitic worm
“…[The] study finds that a parasitic worm often found in the children might trigger the body’s own defenses to attack neurons. … The onchocerciasis connection is intriguing but far from definitive, says neurologist Andrea Winkler of the Technical University of Munich in Germany. She … thinks the syndrome is likely caused by multiple factors, such as malnutrition, parasites, and viruses like measles. ‘There are still lots of links missing'” (Vogel, 2/15).

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