In a cross-sectional study, carried out in January 1997 at the beginning of the school year, the impact of repeated attacks of malarial infection on the cognitive performance of children at school entry in moderate malaria-endemic areas of Sri Lanka was investigated. The cognitive performance of 325 schoolchildren in grade 1 (mostly aged 5-6 years) in 2 districts of Sri Lanka which are endemic for malaria (Anuradhapura and Moneragala) was assessed by an entry performance test developed by the National Institute of Education, Sri Lanka. The indices assessed included writing, language and mathematical skills. There was no difference in any of the cognitive performance indices between children from Anuradhapura and Moneragala districts. The scores of most of the indices decreased as the number of malaria infections experienced by a child increased and the ability to identify letters was significantly impaired by the number of malaria infections a child had experienced after controlling for socio-economic and nutritional status. These findings suggests that repeated attacks of malaria in children can have an adverse impact on their development.
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