Nodding syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that has affected thousands of children aged 5 to 15 in East Africa, may be caused by an inappropriate immune response to the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus, which causes onchocerciasis (river blindness).

Since its discovery in Tanzania in the 1960s, nodding syndrome has remained an incurable condition marked by seizures, neurodegeneration, and a high mortality rate. The increase in nodding syndrome in areas where the parasite O volvulus is prevalent indicates that infection with the worm is involved in the etiology of the illness.


Nodding syndrome causes total and permanent growth stunting in children. The brain’s development is also slowed, resulting in intellectual impairment. The sickness is named after the distinctive, pathological nodding seizure, which usually occurs when the youngsters begin to feed or, less often, when they feel chilly. These seizures are short and end when the youngsters stop eating or return to normal body temperature. Seizures in nodding illness can vary in intensity. Furthermore, severe seizures might force the kid to collapse, which can result in severe harm. 


The diagnosis is not very sophisticated and is mostly dependent on the patients’ distinctive nodding seizures. The likelihood of a patient having nodding syndrome increases significantly in the presence of both mental retardation and stunted development. In the future, neurological scans could potentially play a role in the diagnostic process.


No particular therapy exists for nodding syndrome at this time. With meticulous observations of a limited number of patients hospitalized for a few weeks, the researchers identified symptoms and indicators susceptible to symptomatic treatment and devised a package of symptomatic therapies for care. In addition, a training handbook has been prepared, and this document has been utilized to instruct the health professionals who have been sent to care for the patients.

 The treatment comprises the use of sodium valproate for seizures as well as dietary, behavioral, and physical therapy. Patients currently get this therapy at seventeen treatment sites for nodding syndrome throughout the afflicted area.

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