Outcomes of rheumatic fever in Uganda: a prospective cohort study

Scott H. Wirth, Jafesi Pulle, Jang Dong Seo, Nicholas J. Ollberding, Doreen Nakagaayi, Craig Sable, Asha C. Bowen, Tom Parks, Jonathan Carapetis, Emmy Okello, Andrea Beaton, Emma Ndagire

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Rheumatic heart disease is the largest contributor to cardiac-related mortality in children worldwide. Outcomes in endemic settings after its antecedent illness, acute rheumatic fever, are not well understood. We aimed to describe 3–5 year mortality, acute rheumatic fever recurrence, changes in carditis, and correlates of mortality after acute rheumatic fever. Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of Ugandan patients aged 4–23 years who were diagnosed with definite acute rheumatic fever using the modified 2015 Jones criteria from July 1, 2017, to March 31, 2020, enrolled at three rheumatic heart disease registry sites in Uganda (in Mbarara, Mulago, or Lira), and followed up for at least 1 year after diagnosis. Patients with congenital heart disease were excluded. Patients underwent annual review, most recently in August, 2022. We calculated rates of mortality and acute rheumatic fever recurrence, tabulated changes in carditis, performed Kaplan-Meier survival analyses, and used Cox regression models to identify correlates of mortality. Findings: Data were collected between Sept 1 and Sept 30, 2022. Of 182 patients diagnosed with definite acute rheumatic fever, 156 patients were included in the analysis. Of these 156 patients (77 [49%] male and 79 (51%) female; data on ethnicity not collected), 25 (16%) died, 21 (13%) had a cardiac-related death, and 17 (11%) had recurrent acute rheumatic fever over a median of 4·3 (IQR 3·0–4·8) years. 16 (24%) of the 25 deaths occurred within 1 year. Among 131 (84%) of 156 survivors, one had carditis progression by echo. Moderate-to-severe carditis (hazard ratio 12·7 [95% CI 3·9–40·9]) and prolonged PR interval (hazard ratio 4·4 [95% CI 1·7–11·2]) at acute rheumatic fever diagnosis were associated with increased cardiac-related mortality. Interpretation: These are the first contemporary data from sub-Saharan Africa on medium-term acute rheumatic fever outcomes. Mortality rates exceeded those reported elsewhere. Most decedents already had chronic carditis at initial acute rheumatic fever diagnosis, suggesting previous undiagnosed episodes that had already compounded into rheumatic heart disease. Our data highlight the large burden of undetected acute rheumatic fever in these settings and the need for improved awareness of and diagnostics for acute rheumatic fever to allow earlier detection. Funding: Strauss Award at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, American Heart Association, and Wellcome Trust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e500-e508
JournalThe Lancet Global Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


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