Introduction: Nodding syndrome was first reported in Uganda in 2003 among internally displaced populations. Risk factors for the syndrome remain unknown. We therefore explored vitamin B6 deficiency and resulting high 3-hydroxykynurenine (3-HK) levels as risk factor for nodding syndrome in Northern Uganda.
Methods: Case-control study conducted in Gulu and Amuru districts. Cases were children/young adults with nodding syndrome. Healthy children/young adults were recruited as controls from same community as cases. Data on socio-demographic and other risk factors was collected using questionnaires. Whole blood was collected in EDTA tubes for assay of 3-HK and vitamin B6 using sandwich ELISA. Conditional logistic regression model was used to assess associations.
Results: 66 cases and 73 controls were studied. Factors associated with nodding syndrome were being positive for 3-HK (AOR=4.50, p=0.013), vitamin B6 concentration below mean (AOR=7.22, P=0.001), child being taken care of by mother only (AOR=5.43, p=0.011), child being taken care of by guardian (AOR=5.90, p=0.019) and child consuming relief food at weaning (AOR=4.05, p=0.021).
Conclusion: Having low vitamin B6 concentration which leads to a build up of 3-hydroxykynurenine concentration in cases as a main risk factor. Therefore, cases should be treated with vitamin B6 and community members should be sensitise to ensure adequate dietary intake of vitamin B6 so that the risk of nodding syndrome among children is averted. We encourage future prospective intervention study to be conducted to assess the effect of low vitamin B6 on the development of nodding syndrome via raised 3-HK concentration.
Keywords: 3-hydroxykynurenine; Nodding syndrome; Northern Uganda; case-control study; vitamin B6.