Duodenal quantitative mucosal morphometry in children with environmental enteric dysfunction: A cross-sectional multi-country analysis

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health


Background: Environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), a chronic inflammatory condition of the small intestine, is an important driver of childhood malnutrition globally. Quantifying intestinal morphology in EED allows for exploration of its association with functional and disease outcomes.
Objective: We sought to define morphometric characteristics of childhood EED and determine whether morphology features were associated with disease pathophysiology.
Methods: Morphometric measurements and histology were assessed on duodenal biopsy slides for this cross-sectional study from children with EED in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Zambia (n=69), and those with no pathologic abnormality (NPA; n=8) or celiac disease (n=18) in North America. Immunohistochemistry was also conducted on 46, 8, and 18 biopsy slides, respectively. Linear mixed-effects regression models were used to reveal morphometric differences between EED compared to NPA or celiac disease, and identify associations between morphometry and histology or immunohistochemistry amongst children with EED.
Results: In duodenal biopsies, median EED villus height (248 μm), crypt depth (299 μm), and villus:crypt (V:C) ratio (0.9) values ranged between those of NPA (396 μm villus height; 246 μm crypt depth; 1.6 V:C ratio) and celiac disease (208 μm villus height; 365 μm crypt depth; 0.5 V:C ratio). Among EED biopsy slides, morphometric assessments were not associated with histologic parameters or immunohistochemical markers, other than pathologist determined subjective semi-quantitative villus architecture.
Conclusions: Morphometric analysis of duodenal biopsy slides across geographies identified morphologic features of EED, specifically short villi, elongated crypts, and a smaller V:C ratio relative to NPA slides; although not as severe as in celiac slides. Morphometry did not explain other EED features, suggesting that EED histopathologic processes may be operating independently of morphology. While acknowledging the challenges with obtaining relevant tissue, these data form the basis for further assessments of the role of morphometry in EED.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition