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Pediatr Res. 2015 Jan;77(1-2):256-62. doi: 10.1038/pr.2014.179. Epub 2014 Oct 30.

Childhood malnutrition and the intestinal microbiome.

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Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.


Malnutrition contributes to almost half of all deaths in children under the age of 5 y, particularly those who live in resource-constrained areas. Those who survive frequently suffer from long-term sequelae including growth failure and neurodevelopmental impairment. Malnutrition is part of a vicious cycle of impaired immunity, recurrent infections, and worsening malnutrition. Recently, alterations in the gut microbiome have also been strongly implicated in childhood malnutrition. It has been suggested that malnutrition may delay the normal development of the gut microbiota in early childhood or force it toward an altered composition that lacks the required functions for healthy growth and/or increases the risk for intestinal inflammation. This review addresses our current understanding of the beneficial contributions of gut microbiota to human nutrition (and conversely the potential role of changes in that community to malnutrition), the process of acquiring an intestinal microbiome, potential influences of malnutrition on the developing microbiota, and the evidence directly linking alterations in the intestinal microbiome to childhood malnutrition. We review recent studies on the association between alterations in the intestinal microbiome and early childhood malnutrition and discuss them in the context of implications for intervention or prevention of the devastation caused by malnutrition.

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