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article imageParasitic infection leads to stunted growth

By Tim Sandle     May 8, 2016 in Health
Bangla - A waterborne parasite can restrict the growth of children, even when the children display no symptoms of having contracted the parasite. The effects of stunted growth are apparent from age two.
The data relates to children in Bangladesh, although the parasite is a common one to water round the world (and is every so often implicated in contamination of municipal water supplies.) The parasite is Cryptosporidium.
Cryptosporidium is a genus of protozoa (a simple animal.) The parasites can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal illness (termed “cryptosporidiosis”) in humans. The symptoms are not always manifest — this depends upon the number of parasites. When symptoms occur, these appear as watery diarrhea, sometimes with a persistent cough.
Once a water system is infected, the organism is difficult to remove since Cryptosporidium is highly resistant to chlorine disinfection. The main methods of treatment are ultraviolet light, chlorine dioxide and ozone treatment. These treatments are, obviously, not available to all parts of the world (including the slums around the Bangladeshi capital.)
Researchers have identified that three of every four children on the outskirts of the capital of Bangladesh (a town called Mirpur) are subject to at least one Cryptosporidium infection in the first 24 months of life. Symptoms appear in around one in four of those infected.
Although there are often no symptoms, 50 percent of those infected experience stunted growth in the first two years of life. Stunted growth is assessed by calculating the height-to-age ratio of a person. This leads to permanent problems as the children reach adulthood. This was the outcome of a long-term study, assessing the health of children through measurements, surveys and blood samples.
Hitherto, it was thought that diarrhea and the associated physiological effects stemming from malnutrition led to the stunted growth. However, the new evidence, that stunted growth is also associated with asymptomatic cases, alters this theory. It seems like any level of infection could affect the child’s body.
The finding means improving water systems, and the eight to every person on the planet having access to clean water, becomes an even bigger priority.
The study was led by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the findings are published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The paper is called “Natural History of Cryptosporidiosis in a Longitudinal Study of Slum-Dwelling Bangladeshi Children: Association with Severe Malnutrition.”
More about Parasites, Children, Growth, cryptosporidium
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