Determinants and impact of giardia infection in the first 2 years of life in the MAL-ED birth cohort

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health


Background: Giardia are among the most common enteropathogens detected in children in low-resource settings. We describe here the epidemiology of infection with Giardia in the first 2 years of life in the Etiology, Risk Factors, and Interactions of Enteric Infections and Malnutrition and the Consequences for Child Health and Development Project (MAL-ED), a multisite birth-cohort study.
Methods: From 2089 children, 34916 stool samples collected during monthly surveillance and episodes of diarrhea were tested for Giardia using an enzyme immunoassay. We quantified the risk of Giardia detection, identified risk factors, and assessed the associations with micronutrients, markers of gut inflammation and permeability, diarrhea, and growth using multivariable linear regression.
Results: The incidence of at least 1 Giardia detection varied according to site (range, 37.7%-96.4%) and was higher in the second year of life. Exclusive breastfeeding (HR for first Giardia detection in a monthly surveillance stool sample, 0.46 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.28-0.75]), higher socioeconomic status (HR, 0.74 [95% CI, 0.56-0.97]), and recent metronidazole treatment (risk ratio for any surveillance stool detection, 0.69 [95% CI, 0.56-0.84]) were protective. Persistence of Giardia (consecutive detections) in the first 6 months of life was associated with reduced subsequent diarrheal rates in Naushahro Feroze, Pakistan but not at any other site. Giardia detection was also associated with an increased lactulose/mannitol ratio. Persistence of Giardia before 6 months of age was associated with a -0.29 (95% CI, -0.53 to -0.05) deficit in weight-for-age z score and -0.29 (95% CI, -0.64 to 0.07) deficit in length-for-age z score at 2 years.
Conclusion: Infection with Giardia occurred across epidemiological contexts, and repeated detections in 40% of the children suggest that persistent infections were common. Early persistent infection with Giardia, independent of diarrhea, might contribute to intestinal


Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society