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Treatment for malaria and malnutrition could impair normal height growth: Study

10 April 2018

Children suffering from malaria and malnutrition might experience diminished height growth when treated for both conditions simultaneously, according to a recently published article.

Published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the article found that 1,327 children treated for both falciparum malaria and uncomplicated severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Niger experienced a reduction in height gains of 0.002 mm per day on average, while increasing their weight at the same time.

These findings add further evidence to the complex relationship between malaria and malnutrition. Previous studies have suggested that malaria may increase the incidence and severity of malnutrition, while malnutrition may also increase the risk of malaria infection.

The study, which examined results from approximately 2,399 children admitted to treatment for SAM, could help affirm the link between malaria and impaired recovery from malnutrition.

“Malaria and malnutrition is a complex interaction, and these findings provide new insights into how the relationship might play out for patients, including the potential effect of dual treatment on height growth,” said co-author Prof Catherine Oldenburg, of the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).

At the same time, the study did not find a statistically significant link between malnutrition and malaria incidence. Approximately 1,072 children not infected with malaria when malnutrition treatment commenced were not more likely to contract the disease, according to the authors.

However, the study also showed that a majority of children admitted for SAM treatment – 53 percent – already had malaria.

“There is clearly more work to be done to explore the relationship between malaria and malnutrition, and given the potentially huge impact on impoverished populations we would like to see it move forward,” said co-author Prof Sheila Isanaka, of Epicentre, Paris, and Harvard University.

Publication

Catherine E Oldenburg, Philippe J Guerin, Fatou Berthé, Rebecca F Grais, Sheila Isanaka; Malaria and Nutritional Status Among Children With Severe Acute Malnutrition in Niger: A Prospective Cohort Study, Clinical Infectious Diseases, ciy207, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciy207