Fishing For the Microbes Behind Malnutrition

Malnutrition seems like an intuitive problem: you don’t eat enough food, so your health suffers. But it’s not that simple. One mysterious type of malnutrition known as kwashiorkor—characterised by leaky blood vessels, puffy limbs, distended stomachs, and fragile skin—often affects children who eat just as much as their healthy neighbours. And even if these kids get to munch on protein-rich food, some don’t recover.

A team of scientists, led by Jeff Gordon at the Washington University School of Medicine, has shown that children with kwashiorkor harbour 11 species of gut bacteria that, together with their poor diets, conspire to damage their guts.

These results suggest that this particular ...

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