Unsafe Child Feces Disposal is Associated with Environmental Enteropathy and Impaired Growth

Unsafe Child Feces Disposal is Associated with Environmental Enteropathy and Impaired Growth.  Journal of Pediatrics, June 2016.

Authors: Christine Marie George, Lauren Oldja, Shwapon Biswas, et al.

Objective – To investigate the relationship between unsafe child feces disposal, environmental enteropathy, and impaired growth, we conducted a prospective cohort study of 216 young children in rural Bangladesh.

Study design – Using a prospective cohort study design in rural Bangladesh, unsafe child feces disposal, using the Joint Monitoring Program definition, was assessed using 5-hour structured observation by trained study personnel as well as caregiver reports. Anthropometric measurements were collected at baseline and at a 9-month follow-up. Stool was analyzed for fecal markers of environmental enteropathy: alpha-1-antitrypsin, myeloperoxidase, neopterin (combined to form an environmental enteropathy disease activity score), and calprotectin.

Findings – Among 216 households with young children, 84% had an unsafe child feces disposal event during structured observation and 75% had caregiver reported events. There was no significant difference in observed unsafe child feces disposal events for households with or without an improved sanitation option (82% vs 85%, P = .72) or by child’s age (P = .96). Children in households where caregivers reported unsafe child feces disposal had significantly higher environmental enteropathy scores (0.82-point difference, 95% CI 0.11-1.53), and significantly greater odds of being wasted (weight-for-height z score <2 SDs) (9% vs 0%, P = .024). In addition, children in households with observed unsafe feces disposal had significantly reduced change in weight-for-age z-score (0.34 [95% CI 0.68, 0.01] and weight-for-height z score (0.52 [95% CI 0.98, 0.06]).

Conclusion – Unsafe child feces disposal was significantly associated with environmental enteropathy and impaired growth in a pediatric population in rural Bangladesh. Interventions are needed to reduce this high-risk behavior to protect the health of susceptible pediatric populations

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