When malnutrition is mentioned, people would always assume that the solution is to give more food especially to children. However, researchers say this is not always the case. Apparently, damage to the gut by infection can cause malnutrition and vaccination failure in children.
Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine worked with malnourished children in Bangladesh and found that food is not enough to vanquish malnutrition. They claim that if effective nutritional measures were implemented to every child around the globe, malnutrition rates would decrease by just a third.
This fact compelled the researchers to look for other factors that contribute to malnutrition in children.
Teaming up with researchers from the University of Vermont and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh, parents and children were visited twice a week and received free medical health care.
The development of malnutrition is said to be observed if the children are unusually short for their age. Despite giving vaccinations and ample medical attention, the researchers found that stunting rose from 9.5 percent upon enrollment to around 27.6 percent by 1 year old.
The children became malnourished despite the efforts, proving that malnutrition is apparently a very hard condition to reverse.
Hence, the researchers suspect that food ingested by stunted kids was not digested properly. They also found that these kids' intestines are being frequently infected compared to infants who are not malnourished.
To test their theory, they performed similar tests on children in the United States who were diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease. They found that approximately every child had significant results which means that their guts were impaired too.
To add to the hurdle of these kids, important vaccines given through the oral route like rotavirus, a very important vaccine to reduce mortality among children, become less effective. Another important vaccine is the OPV or the oral polio vaccine.
"Since these two vaccines immunize the intestine, we tested if children with the worst gut damage also suffered from vaccine failure," Dr. Bill Petri, chief of Division of Infectious Disease and International Health at UVA said.
The longer children suffer from gut inflammation, the worse their nutritional status and less effective the vaccine will be. Thus, it suggests that the body's immune response may be the culprit in malnutrition problems and this can serve as a target for prevention.
The researchers are hoping for a future where all children are free from malnutrition and vaccine failure.
Photo: CDC Global | Flickr