Delayed Neuropsychiatric Effects of Malaria in Ghana

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This study investigated the long-term emotional and cognitive effects of malaria infection in a sample of community resident nonmigratory Ghanaian adults, comparing 142 individuals with a documented history of clinicalfalciparum malaria and 30 controls without a lifetime medical diagnosis of malaria. Results were based on self-report inventory and interview-based approaches to assessment of emotional status as well as individual administration of the Mini-Mental State Examination. Our findings indicated the presence of an enduring, albeit subclinical, mixed anxiety-depression syndrome after medical recovery from falciparum malaria. There were, however, no significant neurocognitive deficits associated with malaria status on the objective screening instrument, nor were there reports of subjective attention, concentration, memory, or other cognitive complaints by self-report. Malaria may be a risk factor for psychiatric morbidity. We therefore recommend a search for effective malaria prevention and intervention strategies to avert the more serious clinical manifestations of mental disorder likely to evolve in this imminently lethal infectious disease.

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