Global & Disaster Medicine

Archive for the ‘Konzo’ Category

Konzo, a food-borne illness that paralyzes the legs and back, has been raging in Feshi territory in southwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s Kwango province for several months.


“……Le konzo est une maladie qui attaque les membres inférieurs et la colonne vertébrale,  provoquant une déformation physique déplorable et souvent irréversible. Cette maladie est provoquée par la consommation d’une variété de manioc très amer qui devait normalement rester trempé dans l’eau au moins pendant quatre jours pour éliminer le cyanure avant d’être consommé...…”


Cassava, konzo, and neurotoxicity

Published: September, 2017
“…….Cassava (Manihot esculenta) forms part of the staple diet for more than 600 million people across the world, particularly those that live in poverty and remote areas where food security is poor…..

Cassava contains cyanogenic glucosides (linamarin and lotaustralin) that are released as hydrogen cyanide….. For human consumption, the plants need to be detoxified, usually by soaking, drying in the sun, boiling, fermentation, or grating with roasting.These processes allow the cyanogenic glucosides to be released, but depend upon traditional practices, time taken, and the availability of water. Neurotoxicity is associated with incompletely detoxified cassava, although the exact mechanisms by which these compounds cause neurological damage is unclear……”
Image result for cassava

Konzo: An irreversible upper-motor neuron disorder affecting children dependent on bitter cassava for food.


Cognitive and motor performance in Congolese children with konzo during 4 years of follow-up: a longitudinal analysis.  Boivin, Michael J et al.  The Lancet Global Health , Volume 5 , Issue 9 , e936 – e947

“…..Motor and cognitive performance continues to be significantly impaired in boys with konzo at 2-year follow-up compared with boys without konzo. Because these impairments are associated in part with exposure to poorly processed cassava as measured by urinary thiocyanate, interventions are urgently needed to ensure improved processing of cassava to detoxify this food source…..”


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