Neurodevelopmental Impairments 1 Year After Cerebral Malaria

Cerebral malaria (CM) causes significant mortality and morbidity in sub-Saharan African children. Reliable morbidity estimates are scarce because of methodological variability across studies. We describe the incidence, course, and severity of neurodevelopmental impairments in survivors of CM and the associated patient characteristics to inform epidemiologic estimates of malaria morbidity rates and prevention and treatment efforts.


We conducted an exposure-control study of 85 survivors of CM and 100 age-matched patients in a control group who were enrolled at hospital discharge and assessed after 1, 6, and 12 months using caregiver interviews and standardized developmental, cognitive, and behavioral measures.


Developmental or cognitive impairment (<10th percentile of the control distribution) and/or new onset of caregiver-reported behavior problems occurred in 53% of case patients compared with 20% of the patients in the control group (odds ratio 4.5; 95% CI: 2.4 to 8.6; P < .001). In case patients, developmental or cognitive impairment at the 12-month assessment was associated with HIV-positive status and short stature at presentation, more prolonged fever and coma during admission, and severe atrophy or multifocal abnormalities being found on MRI at the 1-month assessment.


One-half of survivors of CM were neurodevelopmentally impaired at the 1-year assessment. With these results, we support prevention trials of acute, neuroprotective interventions and the allocation of resources to evaluation, education, and rehabilitation efforts to reduce the significant long-term burden of CM-associated impairments on families and their communities.