Nutrition and infectious diseases

Nutrition and infectious diseases

Infections are common and inextricably linked to nutrition in low-income countries. Our work is focused on two axes of research. The first line involves iron deficiency, infection and inflammation. Concerns that iron interventions can increase the burden of infectious diseases, notably malaria, have been a barrier to scaling up iron interventions.

Conversely, infections cause iron deficiency through blood loss and inflammation, and complicate the diagnosis of iron deficiency. Evidence is growing that infection-induced inflammation, even at low-grade levels, impairs the efficacy of iron interventions in Africa. The second line concerns gut pathogens, inflammation and child growth.

Recent studies indicate that nutritional interventions (including vitamin A and zinc supplementation, balanced energy protein supplementation, complementary feeding, breastfeeding promotion, and prenatal micronutrient supplementation) have limited efficacy in reducing the prevalence of stunting in young children in developing countries. This poor growth response to nutritional interventions may be due to ‘environmental enteropathy’, i.e., a condition of chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, induced by gut infections that is associated with structural changes in the small bowel, increased intestinal permeability, impaired gut immune function, and malabsorption of nutrients.

Large projects

Completed projects

Key publications