Looking at risk factors for peripheral neuropathy in Uganda

In this week’s Neurology, Saylor et al. report findings from Uganda looking at risk factors for peripheral neuropathy (PN) among 800 adults in the Rakai Community Cohort Study. Based upon the requirement for at least one symptom AND least one sign on physical examination, 13% of adults assessed had evidence of neuropathy. HIV was certainly a risk factor for PN, but 7% of HIV negative participants also had PN. Risk factors included age, neurotoxic medications and tobacco use. As the authors point out, these rates of PN warrant further investigations into possible causes, especially environmental exposures and nutritional vulnerabilities especially since the presence of PN was associated with impaired function.

Gretchen L. Birbeck, MD, MPH

Gretchen L. Birbeck, MD, MPH

Gretchen Birbeck is a neurologist who divides her time between the US and Africa. Her US academic home is the University of Rochester where she is the Rykenboer Professor of Neurology and Research Director for the Strong Epilepsy Center with adjunct appointments in the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics and the Department of Public Health. Her additional skills in epidemiology, health services research, and tropical medicine are brought to bear during the 6-months annually she spends in Africa where she serves as Director for the Chikankata Epilepsy Care Team in rural Mazabuka, Zambia, an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Zambia and a consultant for the Paediatric Research Ward at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. Gretchen’s research programs are aimed at identifying opportunities to prevent or ameliorate the medical and social morbidities of common neurologic conditions in low-income, tropical settings with the ultimate goal of developing successful interventions feasible for scale up and broad implementation. She has been recognized as an Ambassador for Epilepsy by the International League against Epilepsy, a Global Health Research Ambassador by the US Paul Rogers Society, a National Outreach Scholar by the WK Kellogg Foundation and a Leader in Medicine by the American Medical Students Association.

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