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Infections and systemic inflammation are associated with lower plasma concentration of insulin-like growth factor I among Malawian children.

Abstract

Background

Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) is the most important hormonal promoter of linear growth in infants and young children.

Objectives

The objectives of this study were to compare plasma IGF-I concentration in a low- compared with a high-income country and characterize biological pathways leading to reduced IGF-I concentration in children in a low-income setting.

Methods

We analyzed plasma IGF-I concentration from 716 Malawian and 80 Finnish children at 6-36 mo of age. In the Malawian children, we studied the association between IGF-I concentration and their environmental exposures; nutritional status; systemic and intestinal inflammation; malaria parasitemia and viral, bacterial, and parasitic enteric infections; as well as growth at 18 mo of age. We then conducted a pathway analysis to identify direct and indirect associations between these predictors and IGF-I concentration.

Results

The mean IGF-I concentrations were similar in Malawi and Finland among 6-mo-old infants. At age 18 mo, the mean ± SD concentration was almost double among the Finns compared with the Malawians [24.2 ± 11.3 compared with 12.5 ± 7.7 ng/mL, age- and sex-adjusted difference in mean (95% CI): 11.8 (9.9, 13.7) ng/mL; P < 0.01]. Among 18-mo-old Malawians, plasma IGF-I concentration was inversely associated with systemic inflammation, malaria parasitemia, and intestinal Shigella, Campylobacter, and enterovirus infection and positively associated with the children's weight-for-length z score (WLZ), female sex, maternal height, mother's education, and dry season. Seasonally, mean plasma IGF-I concentration was highest in June and July and lowest in December and January, coinciding with changes in children's length gain and preceded by ∼2 mo by the changes in their WLZ.

Conclusions

The mean plasma IGF-I concentrations are similar in Malawi and Finland among 6-mo-old infants. Thereafter, mean concentrations rise markedly in Finland but not in Malawi. Systemic inflammation and clinically nonapparent infections are strongly associated with lower plasma IGF-I concentrations in Malawi through direct and indirect pathways.

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