226 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Enteropathogen infections in early childhood not only cause diarrhoea but contribute to poor growth. We used molecular diagnostics to assess whether particular enteropathogens were associated with linear growth across seven low-resource settings. Methods: We used quantitative PCR to detect 29 enteropathogens in diarrhoeal and non-diarrhoeal stools collected from children in the first 2 years of life obtained during the Etiology, Risk Factors, and Interactions of Enteric Infections and Malnutrition and the Consequences for Child Health and Development (MAL-ED) multisite cohort study. Length was measured monthly. We estimated associations between aetiology-specific diarrhoea and subclinical enteropathogen infection and quantity and attained length in 3 month intervals, at age 2 and 5 years, and used a longitudinal model to account for temporality and time-dependent confounding. Findings: Among 1469 children who completed 2 year follow-up, 35 622 stool samples were tested and yielded valid results. Diarrhoeal episodes attributed to bacteria and parasites, but not viruses, were associated with small decreases in length after 3 months and at age 2 years. Substantial decrements in length at 2 years were associated with subclinical, non-diarrhoeal, infection with Shigella (length-for-age Z score [LAZ] reduction −0·14, 95% CI −0·27 to −0·01), enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (−0·21, −0·37 to −0·05), Campylobacter (−0·17, −0·32 to −0·01), and Giardia (−0·17, −0·30 to −0·05). Norovirus, Cryptosporidium, typical enteropathogenic E coli, and Enterocytozoon bieneusi were also associated with small decrements in LAZ. Shigella and E bieneusi were associated with the largest decreases in LAZ per log increase in quantity per g of stool (−0·13 LAZ, 95% CI −0·22 to −0·03 for Shigella; −0·14, −0·26 to −0·02 for E bieneusi). Based on these models, interventions that successfully decrease exposure to Shigella, enteroaggregative E coli, Campylobacter, and Giardia could increase mean length of children by 0·12–0·37 LAZ (0·4–1·2 cm) at the MAL-ED sites. Interpretation: Subclinical infection and quantity of pathogens, particularly Shigella, enteroaggregative E coli, Campylobacter, and Giardia, had a substantial negative association with linear growth, which was sustained during the first 2 years of life, and in some cases, to 5 years. Successfully reducing exposure to certain pathogens might reduce global stunting. Funding: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1319-e1328
Number of pages10
JournalThe Lancet Global Health
Issue number12
Early online date1 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Etiology, Risk Factors and Interactions of Enteric Infections and Malnutrition and the Consequences for Child Health and Development Project (MAL-ED) was carried out as a collaborative project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (OPP1131125), the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (AI130326), and the Fogarty International Center. The authors thank the staff and participants of the MAL-ED Network Project for their important contributions. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the US National Institutes of Health or Department of Health and Human Services.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4.0 license


Dive into the research topics of 'Use of quantitative molecular diagnostic methods to investigate the effect of enteropathogen infections on linear growth in children in low-resource settings: longitudinal analysis of results from the MAL-ED cohort study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this