Study links infant diarrhea to telomere shortening and troubles later in life

Study links infant diarrhea to telomere shortening and troubles later in life. GeekWire, January 2017.


Telomeres, highlighted in green, serve as protective DNA caps for the cell’s chromosomes. (Illustration courtesy of BioViva USA)

Frequent bouts of diarrhea can be bad news for babies, even decades later: A new study has found a correlation between childhood infections and significant shortening of telomeres, a phenomenon that’s linked to the cellular aging process.

The findings, published today in the American Journal of Human Biology, point to a potential linkage between the environmental and genetic factors that play a role in human health.

They also point to the importance of initiatives aimed at curbing infant diarrhea, such as those funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Researchers led by University of Washington anthropologist Dan Eisenberg found the correlation by sifting through the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey, a database that tracked the health of more than 3,000 infants born in the Philippines in 1983 and 1984.

The babies’ mothers provided details about their children’s health and feeding habits every two months, from birth through the age of 2. The data included statistics showing how often the mothers breastfed their babies, and how often the babies suffered from diarrhea, a sign of infection.

Read the complete article.

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