Volume 66, Issue 5
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Diarrhea is well recognized as a leading cause of childhood mortality and morbidity in developing countries; however, possible long-term cognitive deficits from heavy diarrhea burdens in early childhood remain poorly defined. To assess the potential long-term impact of early childhood diarrhea (in the first 2 years of life) on cognitive function in later childhood, we studied the cognitive function of a cohort of children in an urban Brazilian shantytown with a high incidence of early childhood diarrhea. Forty-six children (age range, 6-10 years) with complete diarrhea surveillance during their first 2 years of life were given a battery of five cognitive tests. Test of Non-Verbal Intelligence-III (TONI) scores were inversely correlated with early childhood diarrhea (P = .01), even when controlling for maternal education, duration of breast-feeding, and early childhood helminthiasis (Ascaris or Trichuris). Furthermore, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III) Coding Tasks and WISC-III Digit Span (reverse and total) scores were also significantly lower in the 17 children with a history of early childhood persistent diarrhea (PD; P < .05), even when controlling for helminths and maternal education. No correlations were seen between diarrhea rates and Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning subtests or WISC-III Mazes. This report (with larger numbers of participants and new tests) confirms and substantially extends previous pilot studies, showing that long-term cognitive deficits are associated with early childhood diarrhea. These findings have important implications for the importance of interventions that may reduce early childhood diarrheal illnesses or their consequences.


Article metrics loading...

The graphs shown below represent data from March 2017
Loading full text...

Full text loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error