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

Afr Health Sci. 2013 Jun;13(2):183-204. doi: 10.4314/ahs.v13i2.2.


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: Dinka; Epilepsy; Moru; filariasis; neurotoxins; sorghum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Communicable Diseases
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Food Contamination*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Nodding Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Nodding Syndrome / etiology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sudan / epidemiology
  • Zoonoses*