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Community-level prevalence of epilepsy and of neurocysticercosis among people with epilepsy in the Balaka district of Malawi: A cross-sectional study


Background: Epilepsy and neurocysticercosis (NCC) prevalence estimates in sub-Saharan Africa are still scarce but show important variation due to the population studied and different screening and diagnosis strategies used. The aims of this study were to estimate the prevalence of epileptic seizures and epilepsy in the sampled population, and the proportion of NCC among people with epilepsy (PWE) in a large cross-sectional study in a rural district of southern Malawi.

Methods: We conducted a community-based door-to-door screening study for epileptic seizures in Balaka, Malawi between October and December 2012. Past epileptic seizures were reported through a 15-item questionnaire answered by at least one person per household generating five major criteria. People who screened positive were further examined by a neurologist to establish diagnosis. Patients diagnosed with epilepsy were examined and offered Taenia solium cyst antigen and antibody serological tests, and a CT scan for the diagnosis of NCC.

Results: In total, screening information on 69,595 individuals was obtained for lifetime occurrence of epileptic seizures. 3,100 (4.5%) participants screened positive, of whom 1,913 (62%) could be followed-up and underwent further assessment. Lifetime prevalence was 3.0% (95% Bayesian credible interval [CI] 2.8 to 3.1%) and 1.2% (95%BCI 0.9 to 1.6%) for epileptic seizures and epilepsy, respectively. NCC prevalence among PWE was estimated to be 4.4% (95%BCI 0.8 to 8.5%). A diagnosis of epilepsy was ultimately reached for 455 participants.

Conclusion: The results of this large community-based study contribute to the evaluation and understanding of the burden of epilepsy in the population and of NCC among PWE in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Journal Article
Keller L
Stelzle D
Schmidt V
Carabin H
Reinhold A
Keller C
Welte TM
Richter V
Amos A
Boeckman L
Harrison W
Winkler AS
Nicoletti A