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Missing gut microbes linked to childhood malnutrition

Gut check suggests possible treatments for kids with deficient diets

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5:39pm, February 18, 2016
mice and microbes

MICROBES MATTER  Bacteria living in the gut are essential for young animals’ growth. Mice with these bacteria (left) grow bigger than mice lacking the bacteria (right). 

In children suffering from malnutrition, the right mix of microbes might be what’s missing.

The bacteria living in kids’ guts play a starring role in growth and development, three new studies published February 18 in Science and Cell suggest.

Food matters, too, but not as much as people once thought, says biologist Brett Finlay of the University of British Columbia, who was not involved in the new work. “People used to think if you just fed the kids they’d be fine,” Finlay says. “But that didn’t work.” Instead, certain gut microbes might be needed to protect children suffering from poor diets. “It’s extremely exciting,” he says. “We know what causes malnutrition, and maybe now we can do something to fix it.”

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