Get access

Brief communication: Chronic undernutrition is associated with higher mucosal antibody levels among ariaal infants of northern kenya



The immune activation that occurs with infection diverts energy from growth and can contribute to poor nutritional outcomes in developing infants and children. This study investigates the association between salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels and growth outcomes among Ariaal infants of northern Kenya. The Ariaal are a group of settled northern Kenyan pastoralists who are under considerable nutritional stress. Two hundred and thirty-nine breastfeeding Ariaal infants were recruited into the study and underwent anthropometric measurement and saliva collection, with mothers providing individual and household characteristics for them via questionnaire. Infant saliva samples were analyzed with an ELISA for IgA in the United States. Infant anthropometric measurements were converted to height-for-age z-scores (HAZ) using the WHO Child Growth Standards. Based on multivariate models performed in SAS 9.2 two main results emerge: 1) low HAZ, an indicator of chronic undernutrition, was significantly associated with higher IgA concentration (β = −0.12, P = 0.050) and 2) boys had significantly higher IgA levels than girls (β = 0.25, P = 0.039). Although there was not a significant interactive effect between HAZ and sex, the two variables confound each other, with boys having significantly lower HAZ values than girls do. In addition, maternal breastmilk IgA was significantly associated with infant salivary IgA, indicating that maternal effects play a role in infant IgA development. Future research will unravel the three-way association between sex, stunting, and immune function in the Ariaal community. Am J PhyAnthropol 2012. © Wiley Periodicals, Inc.