Acute kidney injury is associated with impaired cognition and chronic kidney disease in a prospective cohort of children with severe malaria

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health (East Africa)



Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a recognized complication of pediatric severe malaria, but its long-term consequences are unknown.


Ugandan children with cerebral malaria (CM, n = 260) and severe malaria anemia (SMA, n = 219) or community children (CC, n = 173) between 1.5 and 12 years of age were enrolled in a prospective cohort study. Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO) criteria were used to retrospectively define AKI and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Cognitive testing was conducted using the Mullen Scales of Early Learning in children < 5 and Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC) second edition in children ≥ 5 years of age.


The prevalence of AKI was 35.1%, ranging from 25.1% in SMA to 43.5% in CM. In-hospital mortality was 11.9% in AKI compared to 4.2% in children without AKI (p = 0.001), and post-discharge mortality was 4.7% in AKI compared to 1.3% in children without AKI (p = 0.030) corresponding to an all-cause adjusted hazard ratio of 2.30 (95% CI 1.21, 4.35). AKI was a risk factor for short- and long-term neurocognitive impairment. At 1 week post-discharge, the frequency of neurocognitive impairment was 37.3% in AKI compared to 13.5% in children without AKI (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 2.31 [95% CI 1.32, 4.04]); at 1-year follow-up, it was 13.3% in AKI compared to 3.4% in children without AKI (aOR 2.48 [95% CI 1.01, 6.10]), and at 2-year follow-up, it was 13.0% in AKI compared to 3.4% in children without AKI (aOR 3.03 [95% CI 1.22, 7.58]). AKI was a risk factor for CKD at 1-year follow-up: 7.6% of children with severe malaria-associated AKI had CKD at follow-up compared to 2.8% of children without AKI (p = 0.038) corresponding to an OR of 2.81 (95% CI 1.02, 7.73). The presenting etiology of AKI was consistent with prerenal azotemia, and lactate dehydrogenase as a marker of intravascular hemolysis was an independent risk factor for AKI in CM and SMA (p < 0.0001). In CM, AKI was associated with the presence and severity of retinopathy (p < 0.05) and increased cerebrospinal fluid albumin suggestive of blood-brain barrier disruption.


AKI is a risk factor for long-term neurocognitive impairment and CKD in pediatric severe malaria.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

BMC Medicine



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.