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Effects of Water, Sanitation, Handwashing, and Nutritional Interventions on Environmental Enteric Dysfunction in Young Children: A Cluster-randomized, Controlled Trial in Rural Bangladesh.

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We hypothesized that drinking water, sanitation, handwashing (WSH), and nutritional interventions would improve environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), a potential contributor to stunting.


Within a subsample of a cluster-randomized, controlled trial in rural Bangladesh, we enrolled pregnant women in 4 arms: control, WSH, child nutrition counseling plus lipid-based nutrient supplements (N), and nutrition plus WSH (N+WSH). Among the birth cohort, we measured biomarkers of gut inflammation (myeloperoxidase, neopterin), permeability (alpha-1-antitrypsin, lactulose, mannitol), and repair (regenerating gene 1β) at median ages 3, 14, and 28 months. Analysis was intention-to-treat.


We assessed 1512 children. At age 3 months, compared to controls, neopterin was reduced by nutrition (-0.21 log nmol/L; 95% confidence interval [CI], -.37, -.05) and N+WSH (-0.20 log nmol/L; 95% CI, -.34, -.06) interventions; similar reductions were observed at 14 months. At 3 months, all interventions reduced lactulose and mannitol (-0.60 to -0.69 log mmol/L). At 28 months, myeloperoxidase was elevated in the WSH and nutrition arms (0.23-0.27 log ng/mL) and lactulose was higher in the WSH arm (0.30 log mmol/L; 95% CI, .07, .53).


Reductions in permeability and inflammation at ages 3 and 14 months suggest that the interventions promoted healthy intestinal maturation; however, by 28 months, the WSH and nutrition arms showed elevated EED biomarkers. These results underscore the importance of developing a better understanding of EED pathophysiology and targeting interventions early in childhood, when they are likely to have the largest benefit to intestinal health.

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