Malnutrition is a common problem in poverty stricken areas. A recent study suggests that malnutrition is linked to intestinal pathogens that result in stunted child development.
Enteropathogens, known as any kind of microorganism (such as bacteria or viruses) that causes disease of the intestines, have been previously known to stunt the growth of children in poverty-stricken areas. Concerning that malnutrition in children can result in a multitude of problems including early mortality and impaired long-term development, identifying all the pathogens associated with malnutrition could paint a better picture to help intervene against the physical symptoms of malnutrition. In a recent study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the authors sought to identify the very enteropathogens that were associated with malnutrition in Bangladeshi children.
The study took place in Mirpur, a subdistrict of Dhaka where 980 children were enrolled into the study. About half (500) of the children fit under the category of being malnourished, which was assigned by a weight-for-age score. These children were enrolled from a hospital clinic that treated for diarrhea. The other half (480) of the children were controls; they were randomly selected and had to fall under a healthier weight-for-age score. From each group, a stool sample was taken and tested for specific pathogens (commonly associated with intestinal diseases): Campylobacter, E. histolytica, Giardia, cryptosporidium, norovirus, and E. coli. All the children were given nutritional supplements as well as had their diarrhea treated with rehydration solution and zinc. Mothers of the children were also questioned about their lifestyle including hygiene and household food security.
The results of the study showed that there was a correlation between malnutrition and the presence of campylobacter, E. coli, norovirus and Giardia. These correlations occurred regardless of sociodemographic factors. Thus, the authors concluded that there must be a link between malnutrition and enteropathogen presence. As of present, the most commonly used interventions against malnutrition are to improve water treatment in impoverished areas and to improve sanitation and hygiene. However, with the knowledge that enterpathogens play a role in child development, a more effective treatment of under-nourished children could be discovered.
Written By: Harin Lee, BSc