Volume 97, Issue 5
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



Children with acute and chronic malnutrition are at increased risk of morbidity and mortality following a diarrheal episode. To compare diarrheal disease severity and pathogen prevalence among children with and without acute and chronic malnutrition, we conducted a cross-sectional study of human immunodeficiency virus-uninfected Kenyan children aged 6–59 months, who presented with acute diarrhea. Children underwent clinical and anthropometric assessments and provided stool for bacterial and protozoal pathogen detection. Clinical and microbiological features were compared using log binomial regression among children with and without wasting (mid-upper arm circumference ≤ 125 mm) or stunting (height-for-age score ≤ −2). Among 1,363 children, 7.0% were wasted and 16.9% were stunted. After adjustment for potential confounders, children with wasting were more likely than nonwasted children to present with at least one Integrated Management of Childhood Illness danger sign (adjusted prevalence ratio [aPR]: 1.3, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.0 to 1.5, = 0.05), severe dehydration (aPR: 2.4, 95% CI: 1.5 to 3.8, < 0.01), and enteroaggregative recovered from their stool (aPR: 1.8, 1.1–2.8, = 0.02). There were no differences in the prevalence of other pathogens by wasting status after confounder adjustment. Stunting was not associated with clinical severity or the presence of specific pathogens. Wasted children with diarrhea presented with more severe disease than children without malnutrition which may be explained by a delay in care-seeking or diminished immune response to infection. Combating social determinants and host risk factors associated with severe disease, rather than specific pathogens, may reduce the disparities in poor diarrhea-associated outcomes experienced by malnourished children.

[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 : 21 Feb 2017
  • Accepted : 07 May 2017

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