14 February 2014
The first years of a child’s life have a huge impact in shaping the adult they will eventually become. If consistently deprived of nutritious food, infants’ growth is stunted, and they will likely remain smaller and underweight for the rest of their lives. To make matters worse, these conditions allow a parasite called Giardia lamblia (shown in green surrounded by the red walls of the intestines) to thrive. In low income countries, the vast majority of children carry these unwelcome passengers in their gut. And while these infections often don’t show any symptoms, when combined with malnutrition they can have far-reaching effects. Underfed mice carrying the parasite are not only smaller but also suffer disruption to their gut lining and an unbalanced immune system. This suggests that getting rid of G. lamblia, as well as providing better nutrition may be vital to allow children to reach their full potential.
Written by Jan Piotrowski