Background. Cerebral malaria (CM) is associated with long-term neurocognitive impairment in children ≥5 years of age. No prospective studies to date have assessed neurocognitive impairment in children with CM <5 years of age, or in children with severe malarial anemia (SMA), a form of severe malaria estimated to affect as many as 5 million children annually. Methods. Children <5 years of age presenting to Mulago Hospital, Kampala, Uganda, with CM (n = 80) or SMA (n = 86) were assessed for overall cognitive ability, attention, and associative memory 1 week after discharge and 6 and 12 months later. The z scores for each domain were computed based on scores of 61 healthy community children (CC), who were also tested at enrollment and 6 and 12 months later. Groups were compared using mixed linear models, adjusted for age, weight for age, and child's education. Results. At 12 months, children with CM had lower adjusted scores than CC in cognitive ability (P < .001), attention (P = .02), and associative memory, (P = .002). Children with SMA had lower scores than CC in cognitive ability (P = .01) but not attention or associative memory. Cognitive ability scores in children with CM and SMA did not differ significantly. Conclusions. In children <5 years of age, SMA is associated with long-term impairment in cognitive ability, whereas CM is associated with additional impairment in the areas of attention and associative memory. SMA may be a major contributor to long-term neurocognitive impairment in children in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Cerebral malaria
- Severe malarial anemia