Misdiagnosis of cerebral malaria initially as acute psychotic disorder and later as human rabies: A case report

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Background: Cerebral malaria is arguably one of the most common non-traumatic encephalopathies in the developing world. Unless the diagnosis of cerebral malaria is made promptly, the consequence could be disastrous. Even though the diagnosis of cerebral malaria can be made relatively easily in majority of cases atypical presentation can often lead to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. We report a case of an uncommon presentation of Plasmodium falciparum infection in a 17-year-old school girl with altered sensorium, seizures and phobic spasms. Case presentation: A previously healthy 17-year-old school girl was admitted to our hospital with acute condition characterised by comatose state, recurrent seizures and phobic spasms. She initially presented to a local hospital with agitation and over talkativeness and was diagnosed as having an acute psychotic state. Few days later she became drowsy and developed recurrent seizures and marked phobic spasms which prompted the treating physician to diagnose human rabies. However, further investigations carried out in our unit (including rapid antigenic test for P. falciparum and peripheral blood smear) were positive for P. falciparum. She was treated as for cerebral malaria with intravenous quinine and discharge from hospital with no residual neurological deficit. Conclusion: Atypical presentation of cerebral malaria can often lead to misdiagnosis. This patient presented with encephalopathic illness with phobic spasms was initially misdiagnosed as human rabies. Therefore, the physicians in malarial endemic areas should be vigilant of similar presentations and should consider cerebral malaria as a possibility.




Mudiyanselage, M. H. H., Weerasinghe, N. P., Pathirana, K., & Dias, H. (2016). Misdiagnosis of cerebral malaria initially as acute psychotic disorder and later as human rabies: A case report. BMC Research Notes, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13104-016-2211-3

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