Mycotoxins & Child Growth

Environmental enteropathy – Exploring potential causal link between mycotoxins, gut dysfunction and stunting in young children in Zimbabwe.

Early childhood linear growth failure (stunting) causes about 20% of all under-5-year-old mortality and leads to long-term cognitive deficits, fewer years and poorer performance in school, lower adult economic productivity, and a higher risk that their own children will also be undernourished, perpetuating the problem into future generations. Although diet is important, the best diet interventions only partially prevent stunting in African and Asian children.

Environmental enteropathy (EE) can be broadly defined as an enteropathy caused by an environmental exposure, and has been associated with growth failure among infants in Africa and Asia.  We propose that mycotoxins may be an important cause of toxin-induced gut dysfunction resulting in a widespread enteropathy that mediates child stunting.  The purpose of this project is to elucidate the potential causal link between mycotoxins, gut dysfunction and stunting in young children, and in doing so, to inform development of more effective child health interventions.

Research team: Rebecca Stoltzfus, Laura Smith

Funding: Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.