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Case fatality among African children with severe acute malnutrition remains high. We report a 3-arm pilot trial in 58 Ugandan children, comparing feeds targeting disordered gastrointestinal function containing cowpea (CpF, n = 20) or inulin (InF, n = 20) with conventional feeds (ConF, n = 18). Baseline measurements of gut permeability (lactulose:mannitol ratio 1.19 ± SD 2.00), inflammation (fecal calprotectin 539.0 μg/g, interquartile range [IQR] 904.8), and satiety (plasma polypeptide YY 62.6 pmol/l, IQR 110.3) confirm gastrointestinal dysfunction. By day 28, no differences are observable in proportion achieving weight gain >5 g/kg/day (87%, 92%, 86%; p > 0.05), mortality (16%, 30%, 17%; p > 0.05), or edema resolution (83%, 54%, 91%; p > 0.05) among CpF, InF, and ConF. Decreased fecal bacterial richness from day 1 (abundance-based coverage estimator [ACE] 53.2) to day 7 (ACE 40.8) is observed only in ConF (p = 0.025). Bifidobacterium relative abundance increases from day 7 (5.8% ± 8.6%) to day 28 (10.9% ± 8.7%) in CpF (corrected p = 1.000). Legume-enriched feeds support aspects of gut function and the microbiome. Trial registration PACTR201805003381361.

Original publication





Cell reports. Medicine

Publication Date





Imperial Centre for Pediatrics and Child Health, Imperial College, St Mary's Campus Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG, UK.


Feces, Humans, Bacteria, Fabaceae, Malnutrition, Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex, RNA, Ribosomal, 16S, Pilot Projects, Permeability, Child, Child, Preschool, Infant, Microbiota, Gastrointestinal Microbiome