Quirks & Quarks

Malnutrition and the Microbiome

Long term health issues after periods of malnutrition in children may be due to problems with their gut microbes....

Long term health issues after periods of malnutrition in children may be due to problems with their gut microbes.

Bangladeshi mother holds her malnourished child, Rabuiul Hasan, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research.

One of the tragedies of malnutrition in children is that the problems don't end when the hunger stops. A new study has shown that the microbial communities in the gut of children who experience malnutrition seem to be compromised over the long term, and don't recover even after therapy and a return to a normal diet. Dr. Jeff Gordon, a microbiologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, led a team that found that the "microbiome" of these children seemed to be stuck in an immature state - not developing as it does under normal circumstances. This means that the children probably can't digest food properly, and leads to long term health issues, including stunted growth, a damaged immune system, and even neurological problems. Dr. Gordon hopes that understanding this problem better might lead to more effective therapies that take the gut microbiome into account.

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