Microbiota and growth among infants and children in low-income and middle-income settings

James M. Njunge, Judd L. Walson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose of reviewAdequate nutrition is essential but insufficient for optimal childhood growth and development. Increasingly, it is clear that the gut microbiota modulates childhood growth and may be particularly important in low-income and middle-income countries (LMIC), where growth faltering, undernutrition, environmental contamination and enteric pathogens are more common. We summarize recent evidence demonstrating the role of the gut microbiota in impacting childhood growth and interventions targeting the gut microbiota to impact growth in children in LMIC settings.Recent findingsRecent studies show that maturation of the infant microbiota is linked with the development of the immune system, which is key to host-microbe symbiosis. Infants lacking Bifidobacterium longum subsp. Infantis, which predominates breastfed microbiome, display immune activation while supplementation is linked to increased immune tolerance and among undernourished children, promotes growth. Microbiome-directed complimentary foods (MDCF) containing local ingredients is a novel strategy to promote gut microbiota development, especially among undernourished children and improve growth. Dietary patterns during pregnancy may drive selection of gut microbial species that impact infant health and growth.SummaryGrowth patterns among children in LMIC settings are closely associated with the diversity and maturity of the infant microbiome. Prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics targeting microbiota dysbiosis may impact birth outcomes, infant immune development and infections, and childhood growth in LMIC settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-252
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • enteropathy
  • growth
  • interventions
  • microbiota
  • undernutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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