TECHNIQUES, TECHNOLOGY & ANALYSIS: POSITION PAPER: The potential role of optical biopsy in the study and diagnosis of environmental enteric dysfunction

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Abstract

| Environmental enteric dysfunction (EED) is a disease of the small intestine affecting children and adults in low and middle income countries. Arising as a consequence of repeated infections, gut inflammation results in impaired intestinal absorptive and barrier function, leading to poor nutrient uptake and ultimately to stunting and other developmental limitations. Progress towards new biomarkers and interventions for EED is hampered by the practical and ethical difficulties of cross-validation with the gold standard of biopsy and histology. Optical biopsy techniques — which can provide minimally invasive or noninvasive alternatives to biopsy — could offer other routes to validation and could potentially be used as point-of-care tests among the general population. This Consensus Statement identifies and reviews the most promising candidate optical biopsy technologies for applications in EED, critically assesses them against criteria identified for successful deployment in developing world settings, and proposes further lines of enquiry. Importantly, many of the techniques discussed could also be adapted to monitor the impaired intestinal barrier in other settings such as IBD, autoimmune enteropathies, coeliac disease, graft-versus-host disease, small intestinal transplantation or critical care.

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