Intestinal injury in Ugandan children hospitalized with malaria

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health (East Africa)


Background: Severe malaria is associated with multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS), which may involve the gastrointestinal tract.

Methods: In a prospective cohort study in Uganda, we measured markers of intestinal injury (intestinal fatty-acid binding protein [I-FABP] and zonula occludens-1 [ZO-1]) and microbial translocation (lipopolysaccharide binding protein [LBP] and soluble complement of differentiation 14 [sCD14]) among children admitted with malaria. We examined their association with biomarkers of inflammation, endothelial activation, clinical signs of hypoperfusion, organ injury, and mortality.

Results: We enrolled 523 children (median age 1.5 years, 46% female, 7.5% mortality). Intestinal FABP was above the normal range (≥400 pg/mL) in 415 of 523 patients (79%). Intestinal FABP correlated with ZO-1 (ρ=0.11, P=.014), sCD14 (ρ=0.12, P= .0046) as well as markers of inflammation and endothelial activation. Higher I-FABP levels were associated with lower systolic blood pressure (ρ= −0.14, P=.0015), delayed capillary refill time (ρ=0.17, P=.00011), higher lactate level (ρ=0.40, P<.0001), increasing stage of acute kidney injury (ρ=0.20, P=.0034), and coma (P<.0001). Admission I-FABP levels ≥5.6 ng/mL were associated with a 7.4-fold higher relative risk of in-hospital death (95% confidence interval, 1.4–11, P=.0016).

Conclusions: Intestinal injury occurs commonly in children hospitalized with malaria and is associated with microbial translocation, systemic inflammation, tissue hypoperfusion, MODS, and fatal outcome.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

The Journal of Infectious Diseases