News article

Association of malnutrition with rotavirus diarrhoea: A longitudinal birth study

Posted:  Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Higher susceptibility to rotavirus diarrhoea observed among well-nourished infants

Globally, rotavirus is the most common cause of dehydrating diarrhoea in children aged less than five years. Several hospital surveillance and cross-sectional studies have reported high prevalence of rotavirus diarrhoea among well-nourished infants compared to malnourished infants.

A longitudinal study conducted by Verkerke et al. published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology analysed 626 infants over the first three years of life to test whether nutritional status is associated with susceptibility to rotavirus infection. These infants were not vaccinated against rotavirus and suffered from malnutrition at birth and throughout the first three years of life.

During the study period, 188 infants experienced 223 rotavirus positive diarrhoeal episodes. Of the total population affected, 157 had only one rotavirus positive episode, 27 had two rotavirus positive episodes, and 4 had three rotavirus positive episodes. It was observed that the first rotavirus positive diarrhoeal episode conferred a protective effect against subsequent symptomatic infection. Susceptibility to rotavirus infection was found to be higher in better-nourished and non-wasted infants.

The study limitation is that all reported episodes were not collected and hence there is a possibility that the true incidence of rotavirus diarrhoea could be higher than that reported in the study. Nevertheless, the study concluded that malnutrition is related to decreased incidence of symptomatic rotavirus infection.

In addition, a positive association was noted between nutritional status and rotavirus diarrhoea susceptibility. Despite improvement in the nutritional status of infants in developing countries, rotavirus infection continues to pose a major public health problem. Managing rotavirus diarrhoea with only nutritional interventions may not be all that helpful. Thus, global rotavirus vaccination programmes are pertinent in this regard.

News source - Verkerke H, Sobuz S, Ma JZ, et al. Malnutrition is associated with protection from rotavirus diarrhoea: evidence from a longitudinal birth cohort study in Bangladesh. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. 2016 Aug 10:JCM-00916.