Monday, January 4, 2010

Individual Project

A review of the relationship between malnutrition and disease, specifically HIV and malaria, in countries of sub-Saharan Africa and implications for Mozambique

Malnutrition is highly prevalent in developing countries and is considered to be the underlying cause of more than 50% of all childhood deaths in the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, 38% of children under the age of five years suffer from chronic malnutrition or stunting, while acute malnutrition or wasting affects 9% of preschool children (Fillol et al). Some subsequent diseases of malnutrition are kwashiorkor and marasmus. Kwashiorkor is a specific “wasting away” disease caused by protein deficiency in third world countries. Symptoms include apathy, muscular wasting, and edema of mainly the abdominal region. This disease may be a result of sudden inadequate food supplies in the family due to another birth or trauma. Marasmus is a disease resulting from a lack of both sufficient calories and protein in the diet. Symptoms include fretfulness and emaciation, as this disease is more chronic than kwashiorkor (“Nutrient”). Malnutrition is a significant public health problem in the sub-Saharan region, and is a strong risk factor for admission to hospital and death. In Mozambique, 41% of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition, otherwise known as “stunting.” 23% of children in the same age group are underweight, and 4% suffer from acute malnutrition, known as “wasting” (The World Bank).

Unfortunately, the same developing countries plagued by malnutrition also suffer from malaria and HIV endemics. Children and adults living in malaria-endemic areas often have a high prevalence of malnutrition and deficiencies of micronutrients such as vitamin A, folate, and zinc. Malaria is the most common reason for hospitalization among children and is a leading contributor to anemia. By the year 2000, there were more than 100 million malaria episodes among children in sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 800,000 children die from malaria in this region every year (SanJoaquin et al). In Mozambique, malaria is responsible for 40% of all outpatients and up to 60% of pediatric inpatients hospitalized. This disease is the major cause of mortality in hospitals, accounting for 30% of all deaths. In some areas, 90% of children under five years old are infected with malaria parasites (“Malaria”). In the overall population of Mozambique, malaria accounts for approximately 9% of all deaths (“…Country”). However, malaria is a preventable and treatable disease if measures are taken in a timely manner.

At the end of 2008, an estimated 22.4 million adults and children were living with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) in sub-Saharan Africa. During that same year, around 1.4 million Africans died from AIDS. It is thought that 14.1 million African children have lost one or both parents to this epidemic (“Sub”). Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for around 90% of the children orphaned by AIDS. Mother-to-child transmission of HIV occurs in 30%-45% of cases in the region. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than 66% (about 25 million) of the world’s total number of HIV/AIDS cases, with 80% of affected women worldwide living in this region (Fawzi et al). In Mozambique HIV/AIDS is the number one overall cause of death in the country (28%), with an estimated 12.5% of adults (ages 15-49) infected (“…Country”). Poor nutrition and HIV disease progression have been thought to propagate the vicious cycle that further deteriorates patients’ health and ultimately leads to mortality. Severe malnutrition in childhood associated with HIV infection poses a very serious public health challenge. Specifically, HIV infection, malaria, and diarrheal diseases have been shown to adversely affect growth and are associated with deficiencies in vitamin A (Villamor et al). Recent peer-reviewed research associates nutritional supplementation with increased efficiency in prevention and treatment of malaria and HIV, as discussed below.

In the study Impact of child malnutrition on the specific anti-Plasmodium falciparum antibody response, researchers investigated the relationship between malaria, malnutrition, and specific immunity. It has been recognized that malnutrition compromises the immune function, resulting in higher risk of infection (Fillol et al). During the rainy season (early July to October), rural Senegalese preschool children were initially divided into subcategories of malnutrition and followed during the course of one malaria season. Malnutrition was defined as stunting or wasting based on height-for-age and weight-for-height ratios. Baseline measurements were taken initially, and followed by final assessments at the end of the malaria season. Parasite densities were estimated in thick blood films with a set standard of white-blood-cell counts. Weight and recumbent length measurements were taken via appropriate measures based on the age of subjects.

The anti-Plasmodium falciparum IgG antibody (Ab) was then evaluated as directed to total antigens assessed. Finally, generalized linear regressions were used to estimate the association between IgG Ab levels and malnutrition adjusted for intensity of infection and groups of age. Results showed that “both the prevalence of anti-malarial immune responders and specific IgG Ab levels were significantly lower in malnourished children than in controls,” (Fillol et al). Stunted and severely stunted children showed a significant difference in down-regulation of the specific Ab response. However, all responses seemed to be independent of the intensity of the infection. The authors concluded that child malnutrition, especially stunting, may down-regulate the anti-P. falciparum Ab response. The results act as evidence for the influence of nutritional status on specific anti-malarial immune response. Further, the authors claim that this implies a need to take child malnutrition into account during vaccine trials and epidemiological studies.

The effectiveness of anti-malarial drug treatments in relation to malnourishment is studied in the article, Reduced Efficacy of Intermittent Preventive Treatment of Malaria in Malnourished Children. Presently, intermittent preventive treatment in infants with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (IPTi-SP) has been shown to reduce malaria episodes by 20 to 59% across Africa (Danquah et al). However, the large number of cases of malnutrition in African infants may affect the protective effect of this drug treatment. A cohort of 1,200 infants in northern Ghana received doses of IPTi after baseline measurements were taken and nutritional status evaluated. Over the course of 21 months, infants were taken to routine checkups where weight length/height were measured and related to age and sex. The nutritional state was then determined at the age of one year and at each IPTi administration. Results showed that the protective effects of IPTi were almost halved in malnourished infants with regards to malaria. In fact, malnourished infants receiving SP were found to experience an excess of malaria episodes (Danquah et al). The authors concluded that nutritional status influences the effect of this drug treatment. In addition, IPTi did not improve the growth of infants who were malnourished, as opposed to their nutritionally stable counterparts. Insufficient folate intake and subsequent deficiency was thought to complicate overall malnutrition and partially lead to results observed. The authors also concluded that the administration of SP in malnourished and folate-deficient children eventually may contribute to the development of severe anemia.

Vitamin A and zinc are known to be essential for normal immune function, and are may help reduce the risk of malaria infection (Zeba et al). This topic is investigated in the study, Major reduction of malaria morbidity with combined vitamin A and zinc supplementation in young children in Burkina Faso: a randomized double blind trial. Subjects were children from a rural village in Burkina Faso who received supplements of vitamin A and zinc for a period of six months. The village has a government health center where the children were examined. History of fever, immunization data, physical examination, height and weight were all recorded for clinical and anthropometric data. Blood samples for hematology analysis and malaria parasite detection were also taken. At the end of the study, the prevalence of malaria was significantly lower in the supplemented group (34% versus 3.5% respectively, p<0.001). The mean parasite density was higher in the placebo group compared to the supplemented group at the end of the study (p=0.048) (Zeba et al). However, the authors observed that wasting and stunting with regards to nutritional status continued to be severed in both the treated and placebo group. The authors concluded that these results suggest that combined supplementation of vitamin A and zinc may effectively reduce malaria-associated morbidity and could be a segment of malaria control strategies in African children.

In sub-Saharan Africa, HIV infection and malaria are highly prevalent. When these diseases interact with poor nutritional status, they account for a large proportion of deaths in children and infants (Villamor et al). Vitamin A Supplements Ameliorate the Adverse Effect of HIV-1, Malaria, and Diarrheal Infections on Child Growth examines the effect of vitamin A supplements on the growth of participating Tanzanian children. Results showed that malaria (P. falciparum) and HIV infection were found in 24% and 9% of the children, respectively (Villamor et al). Supplementation with vitamin A among children who were infected with HIV resulted in significant length increase and a higher yearly weight gain. Also, the risk of stunting associated with acute, persistent diarrhea was relatively eliminated by vitamin A supplements. The authors concluded that vitamin A supplementation improves linear and ponderal growth in infants who are infected with HIV and malaria, respectively, and decreases the risk of stunting associated with persistent diarrhea.

Integrated care may be necessary when implementing public health policies, due to the association of HIV infection with severe malnutrition in childhood. This is addressed in the study, HIV prevalence in severely malnourished children admitted to nutrition rehabilitation units in Malawi: Geographical & seasonal variations a cross-sectional study. In Nutrition Rehabilitation Units, HIV infection directly affects all of the principle treatment outcomes and must be taken into account when assessing individual performance of a site. Surveys were done over a period of two weeks during both the post harvest/dry season (June) and rainy/hungry season (February). A differentiation was also made between northern, central, and southern regions of Malawi. Results showed that seasonal and geographical HIV prevalence variations were marked and were statistically significant (Thurstans et al). HIV prevalence was significantly higher in the southern region of Malawi (36.9%), in urban areas (32.9%), and during the dry/post-harvest season. The authors concluded that Nutrition Rehabilitation Units could act as “entry points to HIV treatment and support [programs] for affected children and families,” (Thurstans et al).

Studies have also been done regarding the effect of supplementation on HIV in sub-Saharan African adults. Both children and adults were reviewed in the article, Studies of Vitamins and Minerals and HIV Transmission and Disease Progression. Among children, periodic supplementation with vitamin A starting at six months of age has been shown to be beneficial in reducing mortality and morbidity among both HIV-infected and uninfected children (Fawzi et al). Daily multivitamin supplements were found to reduce HIV disease progression among me and women, and thus may provide a type of low-cost intervention for adults in the early stages of HIV disease. This would prolong the time before antiretroviral therapy is recommended. Studies reviewed included those located in Malawi, South Africa, and Tanzania. The authors concluded that, “Multivitamin supplementation has been shown to reduce clinical HIV disease progression in several well-designed observational studies and randomized trials,” (Fawzi et al).

When treating HIV-infected patients, it is essential to take into account nutritional status and overall health. This topic was addressed in the research article Predictors of mortality in HIV-infected patients starting antiretroviral therapy in a rural hospital in Tanzania. The aim of this study was to assess mortality and to identify predictors of mortality in HIV-infected adult patients starting antiretroviral treatment in a rural Tanzanian hospital (Johannessen et al). Baseline data was collected and the main endpoint of the study was considered as death from all causes. Results showed that predictors of mortality were severed and moderate anemia, thrombocytopenia and severe malnutrition (Johannessen et al). Mortality was also found to increase with decreasing hemoglobin and Body Mass Index (BMI). Results also showed that estimated one year mortality was nearly 50% among patients with severe malnutrition. Severe anemia observed can be applied to the concept of using hemoglobin levels to identify HIV-infected patients with poor prognosis, as concluded by the authors.

Challenges in the treatment of both malaria and HIV revolve around the lack of resources; human, nutritional, and technical. Programs in many sub-Saharan African countries, including Mozambique, have been implemented as an endeavor to combat these growing epidemics. According to the World Health Organization, obstacles in Mozambique to overcome when addressing the malaria endemic are: shortage of human resources, weak supervision of implementation of activities, need of training for malaria health care workers, need for adequate storage and distribution of therapy materials and tests, and the existence of a weak monitoring and evaluation system (“Malaria”). However, improvements have been made in the country regarding malaria prevention and treatment. These include adoption of the Intermittent Preventive treatment (IPT) strategy for pregnant women, introduction of first-line treatment at the community level, nationwide production and distribution of educational materials for community health workers, as well as the introduction for rapid diagnostic tests for malaria diagnosis (“Malaria”). The prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS has also been addressed by both domestic and foreign programs in Mozambique. Financial and human resources are made available by institutions such as the National Center for HIV/AIDS, the Ministry of Health, the Center for Disease Control, and many more.

While malaria and HIV remain urgent public health issues, there is hope that with proper prevention and treatment, the progress of these epidemics will be hindered. In relation to malnutrition, micronutrient supplementation may prove to be a cheap, effective, and accessible route to improving the mortality rates associated with malaria and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.


Works Referenced

Danquah, Ina, et al. Reduced Efficacy of Intermittent Preventive Treatment of Malaria in Malnourished Children. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 2009 May; 53(5): 1753-1759

Fawzi, Wafaie, et al. Studies of Vitamins and Minerals and HIV Transmission and Disease Progression. Journal of Nutrition 2005 Apr; 135(4): 938-44

Fillol, Florie, et al. Impact of child malnutrition on the specific anti-Plasmodium falciparum antibody response. Malaria Journal 2009; 8(116)

Johannessen, Asgeir, et al. Predictors of mortality in HIV-infected patients starting antiretroviral therapy in a rural hospital in Tanzania. BMC Infectious Diseases 2008 Apr; 8(52)

“Malaria in Mozambique.” World Health Organization. 31 Dec 2009.

“Mozambique: Country Health System Fact Sheet 2006.” World Health Organization. 31 Dec 2009.

“Mozambique and the Global Fund.” The Global Fund. 31 Dec 2009.

“Mozambique: National Statistics.” The World Bank. 31 Dec 2009.,,contentMDK:20585276~pagePK:141137~piPK:141127~theSitePK:382131,00.html

“Mozambique: Statistics.” UNICEF. 31 Dec 2009.

“Nutrient Deficiency Diseases.” 31 Dec 2009.

“Sub Saharan Africa: HIV and AIDS Statistics.” AVERT. 31 Dec 2009.

Thurstans, Susan, et al. HIV prevalence in severely malnourished children admitted to nutrition rehabilitation units in Malawi: Geographical & seasonal variations a cross-sectional study. BMC Pediatrics 2008; 8(22)

Villamor, Eduardo, et al. Vitamin A Supplements Ameliorate the Adverse Effect of HIV-1 Malaria, and Diarrheal Infections on Child Growth. BMC Pediatrics 2002 Jan; 109(1)

Zeba, Augustin N, et al. Major reduction of malaria morbidity with combined vitamin A and zinc supplementation in young children in Burkina Faso: a randomized double blind trial. Nutrition Journal 2008; 7(7)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hopes, Meetings, and Outlines

I am extremely excited for our trip to both South Africa and Mozambique. From an educational standpoint, I am about to encounter a world completely unknown to me. So many African cultures and customs I’m only familiar with from books and films. I want to experience everything fully. I want to memorize every detail…the sights, the sounds, the smells of Africa. I want to come away with something I did not have before. What that is, I’m not sure. But traveling always seems to ground me and I gain perspective on the important things in my life.

So much of what I’ve concentrated on as an undergraduate is static. We are given articles to read, text to memorize…but the application of our lessons is still not understood. I am hoping to gain some experience in the realm of international healthcare during the course of this trip. I feel that it is one thing to throw around theories and policies, but until the situation to be addressed is encountered firsthand, everything remains impersonal and distant.

This relates to my individual project for the ADPM course. I want to learn more about how malnutrition, which is such a rampant problem in sub-Saharan Africa, plays a role in disease prevention and treatment. I hope to focus on malaria and HIV specifically. My individual project, ideally, will be more a review paper commenting on the current status of sub-Saharan Africa and Mozambique relating to malnutrition, malaria, and HIV. From published statistics and personal observation, I hope to first paint a picture of these epidemics. Next, I will compile applicable research that concludes upon possible associations between malnutrition and disease. Finally, I will research programs that have been implemented in both Mozambique and across sub-Saharan Africa with regards to the above public health concerns.

My group has been categorized under all things related to healthcare. Our project addresses three main questions regarding HIV/AIDS in Mozambique: 1) What are the methods of prevention?, 2) What treatment is available?, and 3) What obstacles are faced in the fight against HIV/AIDS? We recently met with Dr. Cohn, an infectious disease specialist who works at the Detroit Medical Center. Dr. Cohn spent a few years in Mozambique researching HIV and he was able to give us more insight into the structure of the country’s healthcare system. He also emphasized the lack of human resources. There are roughly 700 doctors in a country of 20 million. Many times people are unable to reach the hospital or clinic because of the geographic distance and thus are unable to receive a prescription and subsequent treatment. Corruption is also a factor when dealing with the healthcare system. Many times, financial aid is not distributed proportionally or received at all.

Until next time…bon voyage!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Politics of Mozambique

This week we were asked to read Carrie Manning’s The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post Conflict Democratization, 1992-2000. In this book, Manning describes Mozambique’s quest for democracy from a more positive, unbiased perspective than Anne Pitcher’s Transforming Mozambique. While each work was extremely informative, Pitcher chose to focus more on the statistical (i.e. political and economic) side of the country’s democratic progress. Manning gave Mozambique a personality through her use of perspective from its citizens. Manning more clearly describes the reasoning behind happenings, whereas I found Pitcher’s book to concentrate more on the results. In addition, the clarity of Manning’s book painted a better picture of the progress and successes of Mozambique’s struggle for democracy. The significance of this country’s journey and evolution distinguishes it from other African countries.

Another difference between the works of Carrie Manning and Anne Pitcher is their commentary on international relations regarding finance with Mozambique. From the view of Manning, donors are essential to furthering the progress of Mozambique. Donations can be interpreted as signs of support for government actions from foreign institutions. At one point, donors were referred to as “development partners.” However, Manning also points out that these donations are restricted and based on very conditional agreements. In contrast, Pitcher focuses on the adverse effects of commercialization in Mozambique. She is more critical of company involvement and the growing dependence of the Mozambican government on commercial funds.

Carrie Manning will in fact be visiting our class as a guest lecturer. It is such a great opportunity that we are able to meet leading experts on Mozambique, especially when we have just recently read their work. I want to ask Professor Manning in class about what she found most inspiring from her research. What can other African nations learn from Mozambique’s story?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Comparisons and Musings

There are many similarities between the government of Mozambique and that of the United States. For instance, both systems are based on an electoral process in which the majority elects heads of state and representatives. Both countries have Presidents in the highest seat of power. However, in the case of Mozambique, Ministers are elected by the President…much like nominations to seats in the President’s cabinet here in the U.S. Thus, the Prime Minister of Mozambique is chosen by the President. It can be assumed that both will be from the same party, which highlights one source of bias in future policy making, etc. Mozambique also has direct Presidential elections, where the votes of the public are counted and the majority determines a winner. This is different from the Electoral College used in the U.S. and other countries as a means for an institution to vote for what the larger public has been shown to favor. I have to say that the Mozambican structure of direct election seems more appealing. Under this policy, a citizen can feel more like their votes counted and were significant to the election results. A middle party, such as the Electoral College, dilutes the influence each vote has on the percent of the population that supports each candidate.

I hope that I am making more progress. Initially, I was wary to participate in discussions during meetings. I felt as if I were handicapped in the sense that I do not have as strong of a political science background as other students in the class. However, I understand that this is a learning experience and the opportunity of a lifetime. Staying positive! We have been checking and double-checking all travel requirements for our trip in October. My immunizations should be relatively up to date, and our papers will be processed soon enough. Everything is happening so fast, I can’t believe it will be only a few more weeks!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Democracy: the Vague and the Restless

Dr. Anne Pitcher, author of Transforming Mozambique: The Politics and Privatization, 1972-2000, came in to speak to our class about the history and present day status of Mozambican politics. I have to confess that before this course, I knew very little about African politics and much of what I did know came from filtered headlines through CNN and the BBC. Her talk was very informative and mirrored much of what her book revealed; stark differences in the development of rural and urban areas after independence, the uncertainty of a new political system, and the painful lack of resources which hindered the initial growth of the country. I was very surprised by Dr. Pitcher’s statement that half the population of Mozambique is under the age of 15. If that statistic is anywhere near accurate, this could mark a turning point, both physically and politically, for the country. Physically, in the sense of health, such an overwhelmingly young population leaves one to believe that a) some epidemic is targeting the older generations, b) many people do not live to reach a middle age, c) the civil war claimed many lives from the older generations, or d) all of the above. Pessimistically, it seems like I’m leaning towards option d.

The current malaria and HIV/AIDS epidemic in Mozambique has claimed the lives of thousands of people. Many children have lost one or both parents to either disease, and many more are suffering themselves through mother-to-child transmission. With so many people contracting these diseases at younger ages, when malnutrition is another factor, their bodies become extremely vulnerable to infection which exponentially increases the chance of mortality. The combination of disease and the number of war casualties depleted the adult population of Mozambique through the 1990s. If that is the case, it is logical that the majority of the population would be under the age of fifteen because that is approximately the time gap from the end of the civil war (the 1992 Peace Accord) to present day.

And perhaps this is what democracy is…the liberty to life and the pursuit of happiness. For me, democracy is simply the opportunity to choose for oneself, whether it is in the political, social or economic sense. Yet again, the idea of democracy is not simple at all. In fact, it can be the most subjective, abstract idea of discussion. What democracy means to one person can be completely different than another view. Perspective dictates definition. I value the rights and liberties that allow me to express what is important to me. But this is also one of the most important aspects of democracy; flexibility. In Mozambique, I believe that the right to a proper education, access to healthcare, and the right to own property are extremely important to the majority of the population. These cover the basic survival needs of all humans. In colonial times, many of these basic human rights for indigenous populations were overlooked by their foreign colonizers. Thus, democracy can also be defined as the free and equal distribution of resources among all.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In the Beginning

Hi everyone!

Welcome to my first attempt at blogging! Let me start by telling you a little bit about myself. I am an undergraduate student studying Nutrition and Food Science. Currently, I'm working on finishing up my bachelor's degree by the spring and will be starting medical school next fall. In the near yet distant future, I wish to pursue a career in international health care. But before I sell my soul to another four plus years of academics, I want to study something completely different and unfamiliar.

I have previously traveled twice to Belize, Central America to develop my thesis on Type II diabetes. In late October, I will be traveling with a dozen other students to the country of Mozambique, located in the southeastern region of Africa. The goal of our trip is to research the government and social systems of Mozambique, and to later document the national elections which will take place while our group is in the country. I am very excited, and honored, to have the opportunity to participate in such an awesome project. However, my knowledge of political science is anything but extensive...but I like a challenge.

Logically, my interest in Mozambique would lie in the country's health care infrastructure or public health concerns. While that is the case, and I would like to learn more about this topic, I'm also interested in the country's culture. Mozambique, like many other nations with colonial pasts, has been heavily influenced by its colonizer, Portugal. The extent and evidence of Portuguese influence on Mozambican culture and system of government is a topic I am interested in studying further throughout the semester.

That's it for now but you'll be hearing from me soon, I'm sure!