Understanding mechanisms and identifying biomarkers for the relationship between aflatoxin exposure and child stunting

Aflatoxins are naturally occurring mycotoxins produced by the Apergillus species of fungus, and a common dietary contaminant in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Exposure to aflatoxin has been consistently reported to be high in The Gambia. Chronic dietary exposure to aflatoxin has been suggested as a contributor to childhood stunting, with evidence for effects both maternally and directly during infant life. We have previously shown a strong effect of maternal aflatoxin exposure during pregnancy on growth of Gambian infants during the first year of life. Elsewhere in West Africa, an inverse association between infant aflatoxin exposure and height gains has been observed. In this project, we will work with Dr Yun Yun Gong from Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Zdenko Herceg from IARC to identify biomarkers associated with aflatoxin-induced growth effects. The objectives of this study are to: (1) To identify molecular markers associated with aflatoxin-induced growth effects, using global DNA methylation and transciptome approaches, in children from the ENID Trial. (2) To understand the contribution of aflatoxin on alterations to the IGF axis. Subsequent studies will then use these biomarkers in intervention trials to demonstrate causality between exposure and effect. This project is funded by the BMGF, through their Healthy Growth consortium.

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