Developmental outcomes in Malawian children with retinopathy-positive cerebral malaria

Michael J. Boivin, Melissa J. Gladstone, Maclean Vokhiwa, Gretchen L. Birbeck, Jed G. Magen, Connie Page, Margaret Semrud-Clikeman, Felix Kauye, Terrie E. Taylor

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40 Scopus citations


Objective To assess children with retinopathy-positive cerebral malaria (CM) for neurocognitive sequelae. Methods Participants were selected from an ongoing exposure-control study. Eighty-three Malawian children averaging 4.4years of age and diagnosed with retinopathy-positive CM were compared to 95 controls. Each child was classified as delayed or not using age-based norms for the Malawi Developmental Assessment Tool (MDAT) for developmental delay on the total scale and for the domains of gross motor, fine motor, language and social skills. Groups were also compared on the Achenbach Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) (1.5-5years). Results Children with retinopathy-positive CM were delayed, relative to the comparison group, on MDAT total development (P=0.028; odds ratio or OR=2.13), with the greatest effects on language development (P=0.003; OR=4.93). The two groups did not differ significantly on the Achenbach CBCL internalizing and externalizing symptoms total scores. Stepwise regression demonstrated that coma duration, seizures while in hospital, platelet count and lactate level on admission were predictive of assessment outcomes for the children with retinopathy-positive CM. Conclusions Children who suffer retinopathy-positive CM at preschool age are at greater risk of developmental delay, particularly with respect to language development. This confirms previous retrospective study findings with school-age children evaluated years after acute illness. The MDAT and the Achenbach CBCL proved sensitive to clinical indicators of severity of malarial illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-271
Number of pages9
JournalTropical Medicine and International Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Achenbach child behaviour checklist
  • Africa
  • Brain
  • Child development
  • Language
  • Malaria
  • Malawi
  • Malawian developmental assessment tasks
  • Motor function
  • Retinopathy
  • Social skills
  • Socio-economic status


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