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Gut Microbes at Root of Severe Malnutrition in Kids

Malnourished child

Malnourished child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 30 January 2013 Science Daily article

 

A study of young twins in Malawi, in sub-Saharan Africa, finds that bacteria living in the intestine are an underlying cause of a form of severe acute childhood malnutrition.

The research, led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and reported Feb. 1 in the journal Science, shows how dysfunctional communities of gut microbes conspire with a poor diet to trigger malnutrition.

Childhood malnutrition is a common problem in Malawi, and while a poor diet clearly plays a critical role, it is not the only factor. Scientists have long puzzled over why some children are afflicted by the condition but not others, even those in the same household who eat the same foods. This has led to the realization that a lack of food alone cannot explain its causes.

The standard treatment is a peanut-based, nutrient-rich therapeutic food, which has helped to reduce deaths from the condition. But the new study shows that the therapeutic food only has a transient effect on the gut microbes. Once the therapeutic food is discontinued, the community of microbes in the intestine and their genes revert to an immature state, in the children and in the mice.

This may explain why many malnourished children gain weight when they are treated with therapeutic food but remain at high risk for stunted growth, neurological problems and even malnutrition and death after treatment is stopped, the researchers say…

..

While the food seemed to kick start maturation of the gut microbiomes of the severely malnourished children, its benefits were only temporary. Four weeks after the therapeutic food was discontinued, the gut microbiomes of the malnourished children either failed to progress or even regressed, while those of the healthy co-twins continued to mature on a normal trajectory…

..

“There is much more work to do,” Gordon says. “It may be that earlier or longer treatment with existing or next-generation therapeutic foods will enhance our ability to repair or prevent the problems associated with malnutrition.

“We are also exploring whether it is possible to supplement the therapeutic food with beneficial gut bacteria from healthy children, as a treatment to repair the gut microbiome,” he explains. “We hope that these studies will provide a new way of understanding how the gut microbiome and food interact to affect the health and recovery of malnourished children.”

 

 

 

 

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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