Malnutrition in children mars gut microbiome

Jyoti Madhusoodanan in Nature:

BacteriaThe mix of microbes in people's gut gets established early on in childhood and plays a large part in keeping kids healthy. But starvation disrupts the development of a healthy microbiome, according to a study comparing the gut microbiota of healthy and severely malnourished children from the same slum area of Dhaka, in Bangladesh, in the crucial two years after birth. This disruption persisted even after the malnutrition was treated with high-nutrient foods. The results suggest the mix of gut microbiota, which is known to contribute to immune function and nutrient extraction, could play a significant role in the pathology of malnutrition.

To determine the composition of normal microbiota and how they develop, a team of researchers from the United States and Bangladesh, led by Jeffrey Gordon of Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, took monthly faecal samples from 12 healthy children from the slum over the first two years of life. Using DNA sequencing to distinguish the different bacteria present (the microbiome), the team compared the diversity and proportions of different species in the samples, and found that the relative abundances of 24 species in particular strongly correlated with the child's age when the sample was taken. Gordon and his colleagues found that the proportions of the 24 species changed as the children grew older, and that particular microbial compositions correlated with age across all the children. The team tested their model on 38 healthy, well-nourished children from the same area, and found that it accurately predicted these children's ages. When the researchers analysed the gut microbiota of starving children from the same part of Dhaka, however, they found that the microbial composition did not correspond to the children's actual age. Instead, it was that expected in a younger child.

More here.