Abstract

Background

In malaria endemic areas, where up to 70% of children have peripheral parasitaemia, it is unclear why some children develop seizures. Human herpes viruses are common causes of febrile seizures. We investigated the hypothesis that seizures in children admitted to hospital are caused by concomitant human herpes virus infections.

Methods

We examined the presence of parasitaemia in plasma and viruses in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 100 children with acute symptomatic seizures (84% with complex acute symptomatic seizures (focal, repetitive or prolonged)) and in 45 children without seizures using polymerase chain reaction. The analysis compared the distribution of human herpes virus between children with acute symptomatic seizures and those without these seizures by computing odds ratios using a logistic regression accounted for potential confounders.

Results

Human herpes viruses 6 & 7 were found in the CSF of 22% of children with acute symptomatic seizures and in 24% of those without seizures, and overall, there was no association with acute symptomatic seizures ((adjusted odds ratio (OR)=1.48 (95%CI, 0.54-4.05), p=0.448) nor complex acute symptomatic seizures (OR=2.34 (95%CI, 0.92-5.97), p=0.075). Human herpes virus 7 was significantly associated with complex acute symptomatic seizures (OR=8.80 (95%CI, 1.20-64.84), p=0.033), while herpes virus 6 was not (OR=1.71 (95%CI, 0.55-5.30), p=0.351). The logistic regression model with significant association for human herpes virus 7 and complex acute symptomatic seizures accounted for falciparum malaria, malnutrition and CSF protein levels, whose inclusion effect modified the OR of a baseline model by 81%.

Conclusions

Human herpes virus 7 but not 6 is associated with common complex acute symptomatic seizures in a malaria endemic area in Kenya. Viruses should be screened in children admitted with acute symptomatic seizures.