The Nakalanga Syndrome in Kabarole District, Western Uganda

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  • Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Ministry of Health, University Children's Hospital, Fort Portal, Uganda
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An acquired condition resulting in arrested growth was reported in the 1950s and 1960s from along the Nile near Jinja in eastern Uganda. This became known as Nakalanga dwarfism, and an association with onchocerciasis was postulated. After control of onchocerciasis through larvaciding in this area some 30 years ago, no new cases have been noted. We now report this condition from western Uganda where its appearance seems to be a relatively recently event. Thirty-one persons with short stature, 15 years of age and older, were identified through household surveys in an area of Kabarole district with a high prevalence of onchocerciasis. Cases identified were matched with controls selected for age and sex from the nearest household. Cases of Nakalanga syndrome weighed significantly less and were shorter than controls. The Z scores for weight-for-age, weight-for-height, height-for-age, and body mass index were significantly less among cases. Other clinical features observed among cases included absence of secondary sexual characteristics, skeletal deformities, dental caries, and mental retardation. All cases and 22 (79%) controls had microfilariae of Onchocerca volvulus in skin snips. All community members interviewed were aware of the Nakalanga syndrome, and 93% believed it to be acquired sometime after birth. The possible association with onchocerciasis is discussed.