Charlottesville, Va. Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Federal University of Cear in Brazil have joined forces to study if the gene believed to contribute to Alzheimer's protects children from the developmental stresses of early childhood diarrhea.
"In earlier studies, we found that shantytown children in Northeast Brazil who suffer from early childhood diarrhea and malnutrition suffered from lasting physical and cognitive consequences. However, some children who have the same diarrhea and malnutrition are protected from the developmental problems if they have the "Alzheimer's gene" (APOE4)," says Dr. Richard Guerrant, founder and director of the Center for Global Health at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. "Basically, we believe this gene protects the children early in life by helping them survive severe malnutrition, but the same gene potentially contributes to a multitude of problems later in life."
Guerrant and colleagues at Federal University of Cear recently received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institute of Child and Human Development to study the striking link. Guerrant and Dr. Aldo A. M. Lima, professor and director of the Clinical Research Unit & Institute of Biomedicine at Federal University of Cear have a 25-year collaboration addressing children's health and development issues. Dr. Lima and Dr. Reinaldo Ori are working as the principal investigators in Brazil.
Severe diarrhea and its accompanying malnutrition kill more than 3 million people worldwide each year and developmentally impair many millions more children who survive repeated bouts of diarrhea, while Alzheimer's afflicts more than 20 million people worldwide each year.
"This might have important implications for Brazil and other developing countries, where diabetes and cardiovascular disease are also becoming critical issues in public health," says Ori, an associate professor at Federal University o
Contact: David Foreman
University of Virginia Health System