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Int J Epidemiol. 2001 Dec;30(6):1457-64.

Early childhood diarrhoea and helminthiases associate with long-term linear growth faltering.

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  • 1Division of Geographic and International Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA 22903, USA.



Although the acute mortality from diarrhoeal diseases is well recognized, the potentially prolonged impact of early childhood diarrhoea on background growth and development is often overlooked. To examine the magnitude and duration of the association of early childhood enteric infections with growth faltering in later childhood, we investigated associations of early childhood diarrhoea (0-2 years) and intestinal helminthiases with nutritional status from age 2 to 7 years.


Twice-weekly diarrhoea surveillance and quarterly anthropometrics were followed from 1989 to 1998 in 119 children born into a Northeast Brazilian shantytown.


Diarrhoea burdens at 0-2 years old were significantly associated with growth faltering at ages 2-7 years, even after controlling for nutritional status in infancy, helminthiases at 0-2 years old, family income, and maternal education by Pearson correlation, multivariate linear regression, and repeat measures analysis. The average 9.1 diarrhoeal episodes before age 2 years was associated with a 3.6 cm (95% CI : 0.6-6.6 cm) growth shortfall at age 7 years. Early childhood helminthiasis was also associated with linear growth faltering and a further 4.6 cm shortfall (95% CI : 0.8-7.9 cm) at age 7 years.


Early childhood diarrhoea and helminthiases independently associate with substantial linear growth shortfalls that continue beyond age 6 years. Targeted interventions for their control may have profound and lasting growth benefits for children in similar settings.

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