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Nutrition and Infectious Diseases

A teacher from Mahama Akuraa and her child lead us to meet with the chief and the elders of the community.

Malnutrition, including overnutrition and undernutrition, affects over a billion people worldwide. While the extremes of stunting and obesity are often visible, micronutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin A, iron and zinc are also highly prevalent, and invisible without clinical screening. Many countries are now facing a ‘double-burden’ of undernutrition in children and overweight and obesity in adults, Malnutrition increases morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases, with an estimated 50% of child mortality from infectious diseases being attributable to underlying malnutrition. Malnutrition can increase risk of infectious diseases, increase the severity of an infection, and impair the response to treatment. In addition, infectious diseases can in turn increase malnutrition. Given the prevalence of infectious diseases and the spread of drug resistant pathogens, innovative approaches to decreasing morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases and delaying the spread of drug resistance are needed to address the global burden of disease. Strengthening nutritional status may provide such an approach.

Dr. Debbie Humphries has been working with colleagues in Ghana to conduct field studies of hookworm infection and nutritional status in school children. Dr. Humphries’ work focuses on understanding the role of nutritional status as a risk factor for response to anthelminthic treatment and risk of reinfection following treatment. A combination of cross-sectional field studies, longitudinal studies and qualitative field work is being used to characterize the role of nutritional status in susceptibility to hookworm infections, response to anthelminthic treatment and susceptibility to reinfection.

Faculty of Interest