Burden of infection on growth failure

Charles B. Stephensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations

Abstract

The high prevalence of infections among children living in poor areas of developing countries impairs linear growth in these populations. Acute, invasive infections, which provoke a systemic response (e.g., dysentery and pneumonia), and chronic infections, which affect the host over a sustained period (e.g., gut helminth infections), have a substantial effect on linear growth. Such infections can diminish linear growth by affecting nutritional status. This occurs because infections may decrease food intake, impair nutrient absorption, cause direct nutrient losses, increase metabolic requirements or catabolic losses of nutrients and, possibly, impair transport of nutrients to target tissues. In addition, induction of the acute phase response and production of proinflammatory cytokines may directly affect the process of bone remodeling that is required for long bone growth. Infection of cells directly involved in bone remodeling (osteoclasts or osteoblasts) by specific viruses may also directly affect linear growth. Many interventions are possible to diminish the effect of infection on growth. Prevention of disease through sanitation, vector control, promotion of breast-feeding and vaccination is crucial. Appropriate treatment of infections (e.g., antibiotics for pneumonia) as well as supportive nutritional therapy (again including breast-feeding) during and after recovery, is also important. Targeted therapeutic interventions to decrease the prevalence of gut helminth infections may also be appropriate in areas in which such infections are widespread. Such interventions are of public health benefit not only because they reduce the incidence or severity of infections, but also because they decrease the long-term detrimental effect of malnutrition on populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Volume129
Issue number2 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 1999

Keywords

  • Acute phase response
  • Diarrhea
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Linear growth
  • Pneumonia
  • Stunting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science

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