Mystery nodding syndrome may be triggered by parasitic worm

by Gretchen Vogel
Science Translational Medicine, February 15, 2017

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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). 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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