News article

Severe acute malnutrition deters healthy gut microbe in children

Posted:  Thursday, June 30, 2016

Childhood malnutrition hampers maturation of healthy gut microbiota

Childhood malnutrition is the biggest contributor to under-five mortality! Malnutrition increases the risk of succumbing to infectious diseases, and slows recovery from illness by compromising the immune system. Breastfeeding, and food and water security can prevent malnutrition and foster the maturation of healthy gut microbiota.

The colonisation of the gut by microbes starts before the infant’s delivery, and occurs during birth, through exposure to maternal vaginal, faecal, or skin microbiota. The microbial maturation in the gut is characterised by a bifidobacterial bloom before the rise in anaerobes, especially during first three years of life. The factors influencing the development of gut microbial colonies are maternal gut microbiota, maternal milk composition, maternal diet, epigenetics, host immune factors, infections, and seasonal variations.

There is a strong association between childhood nutritional status and gut microbiota. The primary outcome of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in children is the rapid depletion of maternal probiotic, Bifidobacterium longum. The gut pathologies associated with altered gut microbiota are enteric septicaemia, diarrhoea, and enteropathy.

Moreover, the disappearance of the Healthy Mature Anaerobic Gut Microbiota (HMAGM) may lead to reduced energy intake, vitamin biosynthesis, and local immunity. Consequently, this may contribute to the increased risk of diarrhoea, malabsorption, and systemic invasion by microbial pathogens.

Managing SAM with the aid of therapeutic diets and antimicrobial treatments may not restore bifidobacteria and HMAGM in the gut. Future studies may be directed towards investigating the impact of prebiotics and antioxidants on the gut bifidobacteria and HMAGM, and reducing the intensity of childhood malnutrition.

News Source: Million M, Diallo A, Raoult D. Gut microbiota and malnutrition. Microbial pathogenesis. 2016 Feb 4.