Causal relationship between small intestine microbiota and growth stunting in undernourished children


  • Heather Mason
  • Univadis Medical News
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An interventional study in undernourished Bangladeshi children uncovered a strong correlation between levels of 14 duodenal bacterial taxa and the degree of growth stunting, according to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The analysis included 110 children (mean age 18 months) who didn’t respond to previous nutritional intervention. From these, researchers performed an endoscopy in 80 children who had biopsy-confirmed environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), available plasma and duodenal samples to quantify the levels of 4,077 plasma proteins and 2,619 duodenal proteins. They also collected 21 plasma samples and 27 faecal samples from age-matched healthy children living in the same area for comparison.

Of the bacterial strains obtained from the children, the absolute levels of a shared group of 14 taxa were negatively correlated with linear growth (length-for-age z score, r = −0.49; P = .003) and positively correlated with duodenal proteins involved in immunoinflammatory responses. These 14 duodenal taxa in faecal microbiota were significantly different from those in samples from healthy children.

The results provide support for a causal relationship between growth stunting and components of the small intestinal microbiota.

Further exploration of the theme may result in the development of new therapeutic approaches for stunting.