Childhood malnutrition and gut viruses

Childhood malnutrition and gut viruses

Development of the human gut microbial community is typically completed within the first few years after birth.

However, the assembly of the bacterial component of the gut microbiome in children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) is perturbed, resulting in a seemingly immature gut bacterial community, compared with healthy children.

Through DNA sequencing of fecal samples collected from 20 Malawian twin pairs during the first 3 years after birth, researcehrs explored the gut microbiome’s viral component, known as the virome.

 In eight of the twin pairs, both siblings were healthy, whereas one sibling was healthy and the other developed SAM in 12 so-called discordant pairs.

The authors identified a number of known and unknown viruses that helped chart the normal course of gut virome maturation. Both twins in pairs discordant for SAM had less diverse and more immature viromes, compared with age-matched children in healthy pairs, raising the possibility of a familial risk of malnutrition.

The presence of certain DNA viruses from the Anelloviridae and Circoviridae families as well as certain bacteriophages distinguished the two groups of twins. Giving children with SAM a peanut-based food supplement used to treat SAM failed to restore a normal gut virome.

According to the authors, the findings may have diagnostic and therapeutic implications for malnutrition-related disorders.