Addressing the links between intestinal pathogens, livestock, and children’s gut health

A child sits while holding a baby goat in his arms.

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Environmental enteric dysfunction, also called EED, is characterized by a chronic inflammation of the gut. It is a silent health problem in middle to low-income countries—and pathogens affecting the intestines are thought to play a role in its development.

Children and adults who have EED may not have pain or clear symptoms, but they are more likely to experience certain infections and nutritional deficiencies. The tiny finger-like villi that line their intestines are flatter than those seen in healthy people, with implications for reduced nutritional absorption.

EED is especially problematic for children because it is strongly linked to stunting, a condition where children are statistically much shorter than average. This in turn is linked to lower economic, educational, and health attainment, increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, and even reduced life spans and quality of life. In 2020, stunting affected 149 million children under the age of five, globally.

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DeLene Beeland April 18, 2022