Aim: Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection is usually acquired in childhood and may adversely affect growth, although data are inconsistent. This study investigated growth parameters in a paediatric cohort with a high prevalence of H. pylori and helminth infection.
Methods: A cross-sectional study of African refugee children (<16 years) recruited at their initial health assessment following resettlement in Australia. Detailed demographic, infection and anthropometric data were obtained. H. pylori infection was diagnosed by monoclonal faecal antigen enzyme immunoassay testing (MFAT). Growth restriction was defined as children with any anthropometric measures below the fifth centile for age and gender.
Results: H. pylori infection was detected in 149/182 (81.9%). Children with H. pylori infection were older (mean 8.5 years, standard deviation (SD) 4.2 years vs. 5.8 years, SD 4.5 years, p < 0.001). No gender differences were observed. After adjustment for age, H. pylori did not adversely affect body mass index or other anthropometric measurements. Helminth infections were common (41.8%) but not associated with reduced growth or with H. pylori infection.
Conclusion: H. pylori and helminth infections are prevalent in African refugee children but neither is associated with growth restriction. Longitudinal growth velocity studies are necessary to identify any long-term consequences of H. pylori on childhood growth.