• human immunodeficiency virus infection;
  • lactose intolerance;
  • protein-energy malnutrition;
  • World Health Organization Ten Steps



In Sub-Saharan Africa, children commonly present with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) complicated by HIV/AIDS. In 2005, the South African Department of Health implemented the World Health Organization (WHO) Ten Step programme for the inpatient treatment of SAM. Dietary management with F75 and F100 (where the terms F75 and F100 refer to a mixture of milk, sugar, oil and a vitamin and mineral mix) may not be appropriate for relatively well resourced settings such as South Africa.


A structured questionnaire aiming to determine current clinical practice was e-mailed to all dietitians working in hospitals (n = 53) in KwaZulu-Natal who routinely treated SAM.


When initially refeeding with no diarrhoea (ND), F75 was used exclusively by 16% of dietitians to treat infants, and by 42% of dietitians to treat children. If diarrhoea, 16% of dietitians used F75 to treat infants/children. Acidified infant formula (IF) was given if ND and lactose-free IF was given if diarrhoea. Children were often started on a lactose-free F100 equivalent omitting cautious refeeding. Some gave reduced amounts for cautious refeeding; however, the feeds osmolality was too high. The use of partially hydrolysed feeds increased if the child/infant presented with diarrhoea and/or hypoalbuminea. In the post-initial feeding phase, approximately 14% of dietitians used F100 to treat infants/children. Most gave F100 equivalents as high-energy infant/paediatric formulas.


The dietetic practices for infants with SAM followed current expert opinion closely rather than the WHO protocol. The omission of cautious refeeding follows neither current expert opinion, nor the WHO protocol, and may predispose to the refeeding syndrome. Limited evidence indicates that partially hydrolysed formulas are less effective than low lactose low osmolality feeds in the treatment of SAM.