South African Journal of Child Health

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The effect of lactose-free formula feeds on growth responses among severely malnourished HIV infected children in Durban, South Africa

E Binka, D Montoya-Fontalvo, M Healy, M Sobieszczyk, P LaRussa, R Bobat, M Archary


Background. The co-occurrence of HIV infection and severe malnutrition contributes to high rates of morbidity and mortality among children in resource limited settings. Lactose-free, ready-to-use therapeutic feeds (RUTFs) may be most appropriate in this population because of underlying mucosal damage secondary to inflammation and infection.

Objectives. To describe the effect of lactose-free RUTFs on the growth parameters of severely malnourished HIV-infected children in Durban, South Africa (SA).

Methods. This was a prospective, observational study of nutritional recovery in HIV-infected, severely malnourished children, aged 6 months to 5 years, who received lactose-free RUTFs following admission to King Edward VIII Hospital in Durban, SA. The primary outcome was nutritional recovery, defined as 15% weight gain from enrolment to end of study. Secondary outcomes included z-scores for weight-for-height, weight-for-age, height-for-age, triceps skinfold thickness (SFT) and subscapular SFT calculated at baseline and 7, 14, 30 and 45 days after admission. Univariate analysis was done to compare outcomes among antiretroviral therapy (ART)-naive and ARTexperienced children; the effect of ART on nutritional recovery was evaluated in a logistic regression model.

Results. A significant improvement in most nutritional parameters was found at 45 days; 59% of children attained nutritional recovery. There was no significant difference in the proportion of children reaching recovery based on ART status at admission (p=0.08).

Conclusion. Lactose-free formula feeds may be an effective strategy for nutritional rehabilitation of severely malnourished and HIVinfected children in resource-limited settings. It remains to be determined how ART initiation affects nutritional recovery in these children.
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