Konzo outbreak among refugees from Central African Republic in Eastern region, Cameroon

Food Chem Toxicol. 2011 Mar;49(3):579-82. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2010.05.081. Epub 2010 Jun 9.


Konzo is a spastic paraparesis of sudden onset, linked to the exclusive consumption of insufficiently processed bitter cassava as staple food combined with low protein intake. Around 60,000 refugees from the Central African Republic sought refuge in villages in eastern Cameroon between 2005 and 2007. Médecins Sans Frontières was providing nutritional and medical assistance in the villages affected by displacement. We describe cases of konzo seen at the mobile clinics organized in these villages. Basic information including demographic data, history and clinical presentation was recorded for each konzo patient. All patients were given nutritional supplements, and selected cases were referred for physiotherapy to a rehabilitation center. A total of 469 patients were diagnosed with konzo. The majority (80%) were refugees. Children and women of reproductive age predominated. Most of the patients developed symptoms after 2007 in a seasonal pattern with most of the cases occurring during the dry winter season. Most of the patients complained about walking difficulties and weight loss and had exaggerated lower limb reflexes and muscle wasting on observation. Eastern Cameroon is an area with konzo. More effort needs to be put into preventive and educational measures. In addition, timely balanced food rations have to be provided to refugees.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cameroon / epidemiology
  • Central African Republic / ethnology
  • Child
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Foodborne Diseases / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manihot / chemistry
  • Manihot / poisoning*
  • Paraparesis, Spastic / ethnology*
  • Refugees*
  • Seasons
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult