Volume 95, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



Early childhood enteric infections have adverse impacts on child growth and can inhibit normal mucosal responses to oral vaccines, two critical components of environmental enteropathy. To evaluate the role of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) activity and its relationship with these outcomes, we measured tryptophan and the kynurenine–tryptophan ratio (KTR) in two longitudinal birth cohorts with a high prevalence of stunting. Children in rural Peru and Tanzania ( = 494) contributed 1,251 plasma samples at 3, 7, 15, and 24 months of age and monthly anthropometrics from 0 to 36 months of age. Tryptophan concentrations were directly associated with linear growth from 1 to 8 months after biomarker assessment. A 1-SD increase in tryptophan concentration was associated with a gain in length-for-age Z-score (LAZ) of 0.17 over the next 6 months in Peru (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.11–0.23, < 0.001) and a gain in LAZ of 0.13 Z-scores in Tanzania (95% CI = 0.03–0.22, = 0.009). Vaccine responsiveness data were available for Peru only. An increase in kynurenine by 1 μM was associated with a 1.63 (95% CI = 1.13–2.34) increase in the odds of failure to poliovirus type 1, but there was no association with tetanus vaccine response. A KTR of 52 was 76% sensitive and 50% specific in predicting failure of response to serotype 1 of the oral polio vaccine. KTR was associated with systemic markers of inflammation, but also interleukin-10, supporting the association between IDO1 activity and immunotolerance. These results strongly suggest that the activity of IDO1 is implicated in the pathophysiology of environmental enteropathy, and demonstrates the utility of tryptophan and kynurenine as biomarkers for this syndrome, particularly in identifying those at risk for hyporesponsivity to oral vaccines.

[open-access] This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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  • Received : 13 Jan 2016
  • Accepted : 14 Jun 2016

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