Saving Young Lives

New research reshapes what we know about malnutrition

Children suffering from severe malnutrition often are treated with a peanut-butter-based food packed with nutrients and calories. The edible paste has significantly lowered mortality rates, but 10 to 15 percent of children who get the therapeutic food still do not recover, and many die. Those who do recover remain at risk for malnutrition and death when treatment stops.

Now, in two separate studies, Washington University researchers report new findings that are likely to change the treatment of malnutrition and the understanding of its root causes. Both studies were conducted in Malawi, an epicenter of severe childhood malnutrition.

Washington University School of Medicine research in Malawi
Gut microbes at root of severe malnutrition in kids

Gut microbes at root of severe malnutrition in kids

A study of young twins shows that bacteria that live in the intestine conspire with a poor diet to trigger severe malnutrition. The findings, published in Science, suggest that simply feeding malnourished children more food may not make them healthy.

Antibiotics cut death rates for malnourished kids

Antibiotics cut death rates for malnourished kids

Giving severely malnourished children a short course of antibiotics, in addition to a fortified peanut-butter paste, cut the death rate by up to 44 percent, compared to the therapeutic food alone, Washington University physicians reported in The New England Journal of Medicine.