Biological Risk Factors for Fatal Protein Energy Malnutrition in Hospitalized Children in Zaire

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SummaryBiological markers were used in an attempt to predict mortality in children admitted to the hospital in Kivu, Zaire, for protein energy malnutrition. Data for 39 children who died (16.4%) showed significantly lower levels of albumin (1.61 vs. 2.53 g/dl; p < 0.001), transferrin (82.1 vs. 167.7 mg/dl; p < 0.001), and transthyretin (6.49 vs. 9.87 mg/dl; p < 0.001), but not of retinol-binding protein, than for the 199 survivors. Since albumin and transferrin were correlated, a Cox model was used to see whether albumin or transferrin has a significant predictive value independent of transthyretin. The relative risk predicted by each indicator was of the same order of magnitude, ∼4. We conclude that specific biological markers help to discriminate among hospitalized subjects at risk and to identify those in need of more intensive nutritional support to prevent early death.

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