The influence of the microbiota on childhood undernutrition

Africa | Euro-Mediterranean

A study conducted as part of the Afriobiota project involving several members of the Pasteur Network, in collaboration with the University of Lausanne, unravels the link between the gut ecosystem and stunting that affects undernourished children. The results of this research that included nearly 1,000 children aged 2 to 5 years between 2016 and 2018 are published in the journal PNAS.

In children, undernutrition – the consumption and/or assimilation of insufficient food to cover the body’s needs – manifests itself mainly through stunted growth. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 22% of children under 5 years of age worldwide will be affected by stunting (estimate for the year 2020).

This study focuses on the role of gut microbial communities (microbiota) in undernutrition. This research was coordinated by Prof. Philippe Sansonetti and conducted within the Pasteur Network. It was conducted over a period of six years by the Institut Pasteur in collaboration with the Institut Pasteur de Madagascar and the Institut Pasteur de Bangui as part of the Afriobiota project supported by the Total Foundation.

The work, carried out in Madagascar and the Central African Republic on 1,000 children aged 2 to 5 years, showed that more than 80% of stunted children have an abnormal bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (SIBO). More specifically, these are bacteria initially present in the mouth that proliferate in the small intestine. Using experimental models (cell cultures and mice), researchers have shown that this phenomenon slows down the assimilation of lipids. This malabsorption of fats could partly explain the growth retardation suffered by children.

For more information:
Stunted children display ectopic small intestinal colonization by oral bacteria, which cause lipid malabsorption in experimental models
PNAS, October 05th, 2022.
Pascale Vonaesch*, João R. Araújo, Jean-Chrysostome Gody, Jean-Robert Mbecko, Hugues Sanke, Lova Andrianonimiadana, Tanteliniaina Naharimanananirina, Synthia Nazita Ningatoloum, Sonia Sandrine Vondo, Privat Bolmbaye Gondje, Andre Rodriguez-Pozo, Maheninasy Rakotondrainipiana, Kaleb Jephté Estimé Kandou, Alison Nestoret, Nathalie Kapel, Serge Ghislain Djorie, B. Brett Finlay, Laura Wegener Parfrey, Jean-Marc Collard, Rindra Vatosoa Randremanana, Philippe J. Sansonetti* and The Afribiota Investigators
* Corresponding authors.
Flash Research of the University of Lausanne


The influence of the microbiota on childhood undernutrition

Pasteur Network