Aflatoxin Birth Cohort Study Nepal (AflaCohort) (AflaCohort)
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The study focuses on the causal relationship between mycotoxin exposure (particularly aflatoxin B1), birth outcomes, and height for age among young children in Nepal. Previous studies have shown a strong association of stunting with mycotoxin exposure yet causality has not been proven. Thus, this study will provide a better understanding of the association between maternal and/or early life mycotoxin exposure (rates in the blood and breast milk) and infant and young child growth. This information is essential if we are to more fully understand and effectively address the high rates of stunting in Asia.
Condition or disease
StuntingBirth WeightBirth LengthHeight for AgeLinear Growth Failure
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In 2012, a research prioritization meeting organized by IFPRI and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on food-borne toxins concluded, "While there is solid association of stunting with exposure to mycotoxins, the causality has not been proven and the percentage of stunting attributable to mycotoxins in general or to specific mycotoxins is not known." (IFPRI/BMGF 2012) In other words, the extent of the problem, although widely suspected, has been poorly documented and the biological mechanisms thought to be involved remain poorly understood.
To contribute to a better understanding of the mycotoxin-stunting relationship, the Feed the Future Feed the Future Nutrition Innovation Lab-Asia proposes to explore the impact of mycotoxins, with a focus on mycotoxins on child nutrition in Nepal. Through its PoSHAN study, the Nutrition Innovation Lab-Asia is currently undertaking research in Nepal in collaboration with the Child Health Division of the Ministry of Health and Population and multiple local partners on how investments in agriculture can achieve significant impacts on maternal and child nutrition, and on demonstrating how large-scale programs best incorporate such evidence into cost-effective multi-sectoral interventions. Adding a study component on food safety (mycotoxin contamination of the food supply) will significantly enhance our understanding of nutrition outcomes linked to investments in agriculture. As noted by participants of the IFPRI/BMGF (2012) meeting, "only 35% of stunting of children can be attributed to known factors". This leaves room for research to uncover other suspected contributors to the world's huge nutrition problems, which could then lead testable recommendations for innovative interventions to address newly identified factors. The team will assess current mycotoxin risk so that potential mitigation strategies can be developed.
Given the significant statistical associations shown between mycotoxin exposure in children and height gain in infants and young children, the Nutrition Innovation Lab-Asia will undertake an mycotoxin birth cohort study to further the understanding of the causal relationship between past and current mycotoxin exposure (maternal and infant), birth outcomes and length-for-age in Nepali infants and young children. The study will also seek to validate the use of low cost data collection methods (e.g. dried blood spots versus venous blood samples) for mycotoxin analysis.
The specific aims of this study are:
To examine the relationship of maternal mycotoxin exposure in pregnancy and birth outcomes, including infant birth weight.
To examine the relationship of exposure to mycotoxin of infants through breast milk and their linear growth.
To examine the relationship of exposure to mycotoxin through complementary feeding and linear growth.
To enumerate the relative contributions of maternal and infant mycotoxin exposures in impairing linear growth, controlling for other potential explanatory factors.
Controlling for factors such as diet, maternal education, maternal height and BMI, household socio-economic status, infections and inflammation, and other elements such as storage patterns, knowledge of food contaminants and mitigation practices, the specific hypotheses of this study are:
There is an incremental effect of in utero, lactation and complementary feeding mycotoxin exposures on rate of length gain and stunting outcomes for age Z-scores in children at 2 year of age.
Maternal exposure to mycotoxins will be significant predictor of birth weight in infants, thereby being a significant contributor to the burden of stunting at 2 years of age.
Exposure to mycotoxins through breast milk before 6 months of age along with continued exposure through both breast milk and complementary foods (after 6 months of age) is a significant contributor to the burden of stunting at 2 years of age.
Improper farm management, food processing and storage practices are significantly related to higher levels of serum mycotoxins in the blood of mothers and their children.
Knowledge of the problem of food-borne contaminants is associated with improved food processing and storage practices.
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Layout table for eligibility information
Ages Eligible for Study:
16 Years to 49 Years (Child, Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:
Gender Based Eligibility:
Gender Eligibility Description:
Pregnant women and adolescent girls
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:
All pregnant women and adolescent girls aged 16-49 years and living in the study areas will be invited to join the study. Women who are less than 30 weeks into their gestation will be eligible to participate if their expected delivery date falls within the enrollment period.
Pregnant women and adolescent girls (less than 30 weeks gestation)
Aged 16-49 years
Living in the study area
Intends to reside in the study area through the study period
Intends to deliver in the study area
Provides informed consent herself or through a legal guardian
Severely malnourished mother <17.5 cm
Severely anemic mother hemoglobin<7 g/dL
Pregnancy induced hypertension
Very low birth weight <1500 g
Respiratory distress syndrome
Severe malnutrition infant ≤-3 WFH z-score (3 months), <11.5 cm MUAC or edema