Nodding syndrome in Mundri county, South Sudan: Environmental, nutritional and infectious factors

  • PS Spencer
  • K Vandemaele
  • M Richer
  • VS Palmer
  • S Chungong
  • M Anker
  • Y Ayana
  • ML Opoka
  • BN Klaucke
  • A Quarello
  • JK Tumwine
Keywords: Epilepsy, filariasis, sorghum, neurotoxins, Moru, Dinka


Background: Nodding Syndrome is a seizure disorder of children in Mundri County, Western Equatoria, South Sudan. The disorder is reported to be spreading in South Sudan and northern Uganda.
Objective: To describe environmental, nutritional, infectious, and other  factors that existed before and during the de novo 1991 appearance and subsequent increase in cases through 2001.

Methods: Household surveys, informant interviews, and case-control  studies conducted in Lui town and Amadi village in 2001-2002 were  supplemented in 2012 by informant interviews in Lui and Juba, South  Sudan.
Results: Nodding Syndrome was associated with Onchocerca volvulus and Mansonella perstans infections, with food use of a variety of sorghum (serena) introduced as part of an emergency relief program, and was  inversely associated with a history of measles infection. There was no  evidence to suggest exposure to a manmade neurotoxic pollutant or   chemical agent, other than chemically dressed seed intended for planting but used for food. Food use of cyanogenic plants was documented, and exposure to fungal contaminants could not be excluded.
Conclusion: Nodding Syndrome in South Sudan has an unknown etiology. Further research is recommended on the association of Nodding Syndrome with onchocerciasis/mansonelliasis and neurotoxins in plant materials used for food.

Keywords: Epilepsy, filariasis, sorghum, neurotoxins, neurotoxins, Moru, Dinka


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1680-6905