Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 36, Issue 8, pp 1039-1051

First online:

Etiologies of Autism in a Case-series from Tanzania

  • Raymond E. MankoskiAffiliated withTufts University School of Medicine and Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences
  • , Martha CollinsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Tufts-New England Medical Center
  • , Noah K. NdosiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences of the University of Dar es Salaam
  • , Ella H. MgallaAffiliated withAutism Unit, Msimbazi Mseto Primary School
  • , Veronica V. SarwattAffiliated withAutism Unit, Msimbazi Mseto Primary School
  • , Susan E. FolsteinAffiliated withJohns Hopkins University School of Medicine Email author 

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Most autism has a genetic cause although post-encephalitis cases are reported. In a case-series (N = 20) from Tanzania, 14 met research criteria for autism. Three (M:F = 1:2) had normal development to age 22, 35, and 42 months, with onset of autism upon recovery from severe malaria, attended by prolonged high fever, convulsions, and in one case prolonged loss of consciousness. In four other cases (M:F = 3:1), the temporal relationship between onset of autism and severe infection was close, but possibly spurious since malaria is common in Tanzania and there were indications of abnormal development in the child or a family member. In seven cases, (M:F = 6:1) autism onset was unrelated to malaria. The excess of non-verbal cases (N = 10) is related local diagnostic practice.


Autism Malaria Africa Infection