Impact of infection on child development
Dr. Petri started his career of independent investigation in molecular parasitology, an area of investigation that continues today. Child health as intrinsically part of the equation as the molecular parasitology work moved into human populations. It is through work with infants in the urban slums of Dhaka and Kolkata, initially started to study amebiasis, that we have been convinced of the importance of the health consequences of growing up in an environment of intense infectious disease pressure. We have focused on the impact on gut health of the multiple enteric infections that these children suffer. At any one time the average infant is infected with 2-4 different pathogens in their gut. We have shown that these children have gut and systemic inflammation and abnormal intestinal barrier function. In collaboration with Jeff Gordon’s group at Washington University, we have shown that children in this environment have abnormal maturation of the gut microbiota that is in turn associated with malnutrition. We are incorporating febrile illness and acute respiratory infection in our surveillance and have already shown in a collaboration with Emily Gurley at icddr,b that indoor air pollutants are associated with an earlier age of acute respiratory infection. Current work includes measuring the consequences of infection on nutrition and child development, and continuing our study of host determinants of susceptibility to enteric infection.