Primary care challenges of an obscure case of "Alice in Wonderland" syndrome in a patient with severe malaria in a resource-constrained setting: a case report

BMC Infect Dis. 2017 Dec 22;17(1):789. doi: 10.1186/s12879-017-2918-3.

Abstract

Background: "Alice in Wonderland" syndrome (AIWS) is a rare neurological abnormality characterized by distortions of visual perceptions, body schema and experience of time. AIWS has been reported in patients with various infections such as infectious mononucleosis, H1N1 influenza, Cytomegalovirus encephalitis, and typhoid encephalopathy. However, AIWS occurring in a patient with severe malaria is less familiar and could pose serious primary care challenges in a low-income context.

Case presentation: A 9-year-old male of black African ethnicity was brought by his parents to our primary care hospital because for 2 days he had been experiencing intermittent sudden perceptions of his parents' heads and objects around him either "shrinking" or "expanding". The visual perceptions were usually brief and resolved spontaneously. One week prior to the onset of the visual problem, he had developed an intermittent high grade fever that was associated with other severe constitutional symptoms. Based on the historical and clinical data that were acquired, severe malaria was suspected and this was confirmed by hyperparasitaemia on blood film analysis. The patient was treated with quinine for 10 days. Apart from a single episode of generalized tonic-clonic seizures that was observed on the first day of treatment, the overall clinical progress was good. The visual illusions completely resolved and no further abnormalities were recorded during 3 months of follow-up.

Conclusion: Symptoms of AIWS usually resolve spontaneously or after treatment of an underlying cause. In our case, the successful treatment of severe malaria coincided with a complete regression of AIWS whose aetiology was poorly-elucidated given the resource constraints. In any case, the good outcome of our patient aligns with previous reports on acute AIWS that highlight a limited need for excessive investigation and treatment modalities which are, in passing, predominantly unaffordable in resource-limited primary care settings.

Keywords: “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome-severe malaria-quinine-case report.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Alice in Wonderland Syndrome / complications
  • Alice in Wonderland Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Malaria / complications
  • Malaria / diagnosis*
  • Malaria / drug therapy
  • Malaria / parasitology
  • Male
  • Primary Health Care
  • Quinine / therapeutic use
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Trophozoites / isolation & purification

Substances

  • Antimalarials
  • Quinine