BACKGROUND: Stunting affects >20% of children <5 years old worldwide and disproportionately impacts underserved communities. The Vaccine Impact on Diarrhea in Africa (VIDA) Study examined the association between an episode of moderate-to-severe diarrhea (MSD) and the risk of subsequent stunting in children <5 years living in 3 sub-Saharan African countries.
METHODS: In this prospective, matched, case-control study among children <5 years, data were collected over 36 months from 2 groups. "Children with MSD" visited a health center within 7 days of illness onset experiencing ≥3 loose stools/day plus sunken eyes, poor skin turgor, dysentery, intravenous rehydration, or hospitalization. "Children without MSD" were enrolled from the community within 14 days of the index MSD child; they were diarrhea-free during the previous 7 days and were matched to the index case by age, sex, and residence. Using generalized linear mixed-effects models, we estimated the effect of an MSD episode on odds of being stunted, defined as height-for-age z-scores <-2, at a follow-up visit 2-3 months post-enrollment.
RESULTS: The proportion of stunting at enrollment was similar when 4603 children with MSD and 5976 children without MSD were compared (21.8% vs 21.3%; P = .504). Among children not stunted at enrollment, those with MSD had 30% higher odds of being stunted at follow-up than children without MSD after controlling for age, sex, study site, and socioeconomic status (adjusted OR: 1.30; 95% CI: 1.05-1.62: P = .018).
CONCLUSIONS: Children <5 years in sub-Saharan Africa without stunting experienced an increased likelihood of stunting during 2-3 months following an episode of MSD. Strategies for control of early childhood diarrhea should be integrated into programs intended to reduce childhood stunting.
- Child, Preschool
- Prospective Studies
- Case-Control Studies
- Africa South of the Sahara/epidemiology
- Growth Disorders/epidemiology