Metagenomics and metabolomics of severe acute malnutrition (META-SAM)


  • Ruairi Robertson

    Queen Mary University of London

Project summary

Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) affects 13 million children worldwide. There are two main forms: oedematous SAM and non-oedematous SAM. Oedematous SAM has more complex symptoms including liver disease and diarrhoea. However, standard treatments are the same for both diseases. It is unclear why a child develops one form of SAM rather than the other. Microbes in the intestines (microbiota) may contribute to SAM. Healthy gut microbiota regulates the immune system, food digestion/absorption and growth. Disease in the gut microbiota could interfere with these processes. However, there has been little research that has compared the microbiota in oedematous SAM compared with non-oedematous SAM and its role in disease symptoms.

I will examine 200 healthy children and children with oedematous SAM and non-oedematous SAM. Stool, urine and blood samples will be collected when each child is admitted to hospital, at discharge, and 12, 24 and 48 weeks post discharge. I will analyse bacterial DNA to identify what types of bacteria are in the intestines of each group and analyse metabolites in the blood and urine to identify how a diseased microbiota affects normal metabolism with a particular focus on: protein breakdown, the immune system and liver disease. I will also analyse these outcomes after treatment to identify if they contribute to relapse and if they could be targets for treatment.

This research could contribute to the development of treatment for SAM.