Health
Severe hunger can have lasting effects - study
Publish Date: Jun 05, 2014
Severe hunger can have lasting effects - study
A mother babysits a child suffering from severe malnutrition at a clinic of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) site in Malakal. PHOTO/AFP
  • mail
  • img
newvision

 PARIS - Nutrition therapy has saved the lives of millions of malnourished infants, but may not restore an imbalance in gut bacteria that is key to long-term health and vitality, researchers said Wednesday.

In a paper in the journal Nature, the team identified a hitherto invisible and possibly long-lasting complication of severe hunger.

And they said it may help explain why children in poor or war-struck countries often fail to grow fully and remain sickly after being nursed back to health with special, high-calorie survival foods.

"Therapeutic food interventions have reduced mortality in children with severe acute malnutrition, but incomplete restoration of healthy growth remains a major problem," wrote the study authors from the United States and Bangladesh.

The team studied the gut microbes of healthy children in the Mirpur slum of Dhaka in Bangladesh, and compared them with a group who had been treated for severe acute malnutrition (SAM).

These children had been nursed back to health on either a peanut-based paste or a local, rice-and-lentil-based therapeutic food.

Their gut microbes, mainly bacteria that help digest food and produce certain vitamins, was tested before, during and after treatment.

"Children who where undernourished had a microbial community that was immature, it... was not appropriate for their chronological age," said study co-author Jeffrey Gordon of the Centre for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University in St Louis.

"So these children are walking around with a developmental defect involving microbial cells that form an organ, a microbial organ."

The scientists found a short-lived boost in gut bacteria with nutrition therapy, which reversed four months after treatment was stopped.

"We now have a hypothesis to pursue, which is that healthy growth of children is not fully achievable unless there is proper maturation of this microbial community, and the current treatments are not sufficient to produce an enduring repair," said Gordon.

Co-author Tahmeed Ahmed of the Centre for Nutrition and Food Security in Dhaka said the finding might also point to novel treatments -- perhaps a longer period of nutritional therapy for the 600,000 children under five he said were suffering from SAM in Bangladesh and were "at extreme risk of dying".

The team also pointed to potential for treatment with probiotics, which are beneficial microorganisms ingested by humans.

"For example, we can use a medicine in which there will be bacteria, there's bacteria in yoghurt, we can use similar bacteria that can modulate the microbiota of children with severe acute malnutrition in a better way," Ahmed said in a podcast recorded by Nature.

The long-term effects of malnutrition include diarrhoeal disease, stunting, impaired vaccine response and cognitive abnormalities.

AFP


Also related to this story

Climate change 'boosts conflict risk, hunger'

Eat insects to fight world hunger, UN urges

 

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
New super-thin, skin-like condom being developed
The billionaire philanthropist says progress is being made on developing a "next-generation" ultra-thin, skin-like condom that could offer better sexual pleasure,...
Students push for Tobacco Control Bill passing
Students from five universities are petitioning parliament to pass the tobacco control bill, arguing that it has stayed too long on the shelf....
Mulago Hospital improves patients’ diet
Uganda’s national referral health facility Mulago Hospital has made adjustments to the meals it serves its in-patients, with a special diet introduced....
Obama: Ebola crisis
President Barack Obama issues a global call to action to fight the Ebola epidemic, warning the deadly outbreak was "spiraling out of control"....
200 Ugandan patients for sickle cell drug trial
At least 200 patients are to take part in a clinical trial for a more effective drug used to treat sickle cell anaemia....
World lost
The EU urges the international community to make up for "precious time" lost in the response to the deadly Ebola outbreak....
Should bride price be made optional?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter