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Food distribution at Balukhali Kathleen Prior


Bangladesh, Cox’s Bazar District
Liberia, Monrovia Montserrado County
Burkina Faso, Fada N’Gourma District


Main results of the study released in Pediatrics May 21st, 2021:

Clinical and Biochemical Markers of Risk in Uncomplicated Severe Acute Malnutrition, by Dr. Dailey-Chwalibóg et al.




Use of mid–upper arm circumference (MUAC) as a single screening abstract tool for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) assumes that children with a low weight-for-height z score (WHZ) and normal MUAC have lower risks of morbidity and mortality. However, the pathophysiology and functional severity associated with different anthropometric phenotypes of SAM have never been well characterized.

We compared clinical characteristics, biochemical features, and health and nutrition histories of nonedematous children with SAM who had (1) low WHZ only, (2) both low WHZ and low MUAC, or (3) low MUAC only.




In Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, and Liberia, we conducted a multicentric cohort study in uncomplicated, nonedematous children with SAM and low MUAC only (n = 161), low WHZ only (n = 138), or a combination of low MUAC and low WHZ (n = 152).

Alongside routine anthropometric measurements, we collected a wide range of critical indicators of clinical and nutritional status and viability; these included serum leptin, an adipocytokine negatively associated with mortality risk in SAM.




Median leptin levels at diagnosis were lower in children with low WHZ only (215.8 pg/mL; P < 0.001) and in those with combined WHZ and MUAC deficits (180.1 pg/mL; P < 0.001) than in children with low MUAC only (331.50 pg/mL).

The same pattern emerged on a wide range of clinical indicators, including signs of severe wasting, dehydration, serum ferritin levels, and caretaker-reported health deterioration, and was replicated across study sites.




Illustrative of the likely heterogeneous functional severity of the different anthropometric phenotypes of SAM, our results confirm the need to retain low WHZ as an independent diagnostic criterion.

A thoughtful and positive commentary of our work, by other authors, was also released in the same issue of Pediatrics. Biomarkers Make the Case for a Comprehensive Approach to Diagnosing Severe Acute Malnutrition, by Drs. Jonathan P. Strysko and Andrew Steenhoff.

Dailey-Chwalibóg et al should be commended for applying scientific rigor to an often-neglected field of pediatric health; this work and others like it will undoubtedly save lives.”


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