Environmental enteric dysfunction, an asymptomatic condition characterized by inflammation of the small bowel mucosa, villous atrophy, malabsorption, and increased intestinal permeability, is a major contributor to childhood stunting in low-income countries. Here we report the relationship of increased intestinal permeability with serum metabolites in 315 children without acute malnutrition, aged 12-59 months, in rural Malawi. Increased gut permeability was associated with significant differences in circulating metabolites that included lower serum phosphatidylcholines, sphingomyelins, tryptophan, ornithine, and citrulline, and elevated serum glutamate, taurine, and serotonin. Our findings suggest that environmental enteric dysfunction is characterized by alterations in important metabolites involved in growth and differentiation and gut function and integrity.
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