Bacterial overgrowth linked with stunting

Bacterial overgrowth linked with stunting


Scientists at the icddr,b have established a “probable” link between bacterial overgrowth in small intestine and stunting in children in a study.They say it can lead to new approaches for improving child health in low-income countries.Bacteria can build up in children’s small intestine due to poor hygiene practice, but this study published in the journal ‘mBio’ for the first time related this overgrowth to stunting, a very common childhood growth disorder.Speaking to, Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, Senior Director of the Nutrition & Clinical Services Division at the icddr,b, says this is “a very important contribution which has not been previously looked at”.In Bangladesh, about 36 percent children under-five are stunted that robs their ability to thrive, according to the latest Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey (BDHS).One possible factor contributing to stunting is damage to the gut – “environmental enteropathy” – leading to inflammation and poor uptake of dietary nutrients.The origins of environmental enteropathy are not clear, but excessive numbers of bacteria in the small intestine, referred to as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), have been suggested as one possible cause.To explore this idea, icddr,b says, the researchers examined 103 two-year-old children who had been followed from birth in an urban slum at Mirpur in Dhaka.Despite vaccination, medical care, nutritional counselling and care, stunting increased in these infants to 27.6 percent at 1 year of age from 9.5 percent at birth.

One in every six 2-year-old children tested showed signs of SIBO, as revealed by the presence of hydrogen in their breath, a result of bacterial metabolism of sugar to hydrogen in the small intestine.Bacterial overgrowth was also found more common in children showing stunted growth and was associated with gut inflammation.The University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University tied up with the Bangladesh-based icddr,b for this study.“We knew that the children’s intestines were being damaged and that was associated with malnutrition, so we decided to test to see if this damage could be due in part to bacteria in their small intestine,” said Dr Jeff Donowitz, lead author on the study.Donowitz is a paediatric infectious disease specialist at Virginia Commonwealth University and an infectious disease fellow at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, both in America.“One of the things we are working on now is to see when small intestine bacterial overgrowth occurs as children grow up in urban slums and understand its contribution.“We suspect that SIBO at an early age leads to malnourishment,” Donowitz was quoted as saying in a statement.By understanding what causes stunting, the international team of physicians and scientists hopes that it will become possible to treat and to prevent it.For now, as a preventive measure, Dr Ahmed, the senior director, suggests maintaining hygiene and washing hands properly before taking food and after toilet.


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