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Incidence of chikungunya virus infections among Kenyan children with neurological disease: a prospective cohort study

By Doris K Nyamwaya, Mark Otiende, Lilian Mwango, Symon Kariuki, Berrick Otieno, Donwilliams Omuoyo, George Githinji, Barnes S Kitsao, Henry K Karanja, John N Gitonga, Zaydah de Laurent, Alun Davies, Salim Mwarumba, Charles N Agoti, Samuel M Thumbi, Mainga M. Hamaluba, Charles R Newton, Philip Bejon, George Warimwe

Posted 02 Jun 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.05.27.20138404

Background. Neurological complications due to chikungunya virus (CHIKV) infection have been described in different parts of the world, with children being disproportionately affected. However, the burden of CHIKV-associated neurological disease in Africa is currently unknown. Methods. We estimated the incidence of CHIKV infection among children hospitalised with neurological disease in coastal Kenya. We used reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to systematically test for CHIKV in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from children aged <16 years hospitalised with symptoms of neurological disease at Kilifi County Hospital between January 2014 and December 2018. Clinical records were linked to the Kilifi Health and Demographic Surveillance System and population incidence rates of CHIKV infection estimated. Findings. There were 18,341 paediatric admissions during the 5-year study period, of which 4,332 (24%) had CSF collected. The most common clinical reasons for CSF collection were impaired consciousness, seizures and coma (47%, 22% and 21% of all collections, respectively). After acute investigations done for immediate clinical care, CSF samples were available for 3,980 admissions, of which 367 (9.2%) were CHIKV RT-PCR positive. The annual incidence of CHIKV-associated neurological disease varied between 13 to 58 episodes per 100,000 person-years among all children <16 years old. Among children aged <5 years, the incidence of CHIKV-associated neurological disease was 77 per 100,000 person-years, compared with 20 per 100,000 for cerebral malaria and 7 per 100,000 for bacterial meningitis during the study period. Interpretation. Although not previously recognized, CHIKV-associated neurological disease is common in coastal Kenya and a significant public health burden.

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