Titers of antibody to common pathogens: Relation to food-based interventions in rural Kenyan schoolchildren

Jonathan H. Siekmann, Lindsay H. Allen, Mitchell R. Watnik, Penelope Nestel, Charlotte O. Neumann, Yehuda Shoenfeld, James B. Peter, Meeta Patnik, Aftab A. Ansari, Ross L. Coppel, M. Eric Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Undernutrition is widely perceived to affect the development of an effective immune system. Objective: We used a mini-analysis system to quantitate antibody titers and evaluate the sera of 200 Kenyan schoolchildren for antibodies to Helicobacter pylori [isotypes of immunoglobulins A (IgA), G (IgG), and M (IgM)], hepatitis A virus, rotavirus, tetanus toxoid (IgG), and a panel of recombinant malarial antigens (MSP119, MSP2, Ag512, MSP4, and MSP5). Design: Children participated in a school-based feeding intervention with meat, milk, or nonanimal-source foods or in a non-intervention control group. Microvolumes (200 mL) of sera were analyzed at baseline and after 1 y. Results: Nearly all children had elevated titers of antibody to H. pylori, hepatitis A virus, rotavirus, and malaria at the outset, despite a high prevalence of apparent biochemical micronutrient deficiencies and stunting, but many had titers of tetanus toxoid IgG antibodies below the protective concentration. Children with low hemoglobin had a greater proportion of elevated H. pylori IgM antibody titers at baseline, which suggests that current infection with H. pylori may be associated with anemia. Compared with the control subjects, only the group eating meat had a significant increase in H. pylori IgM antibodies during the intervention (P = 0.019). No other group comparisons with the control subjects were statistically significant. The additional finding that the sera of some children showed inadequate tetanus-protective antibodies, despite immunization, suggests that the vaccination program was suboptimal. Conclusions: A large battery of immune assays can be performed on microvolumes of sera. Furthermore, despite evidence of malnutrition, children do develop significant antibody-mediated responses to common pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-249
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003


  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Hepatitis A virus
  • Immune response
  • Kenya
  • Malaria
  • Micronutrient deficiency
  • Rotavirus
  • Schoolchildren
  • Supplementation
  • Tetanus toxoid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science


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