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Background: Children hospitalised with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) are frequently complicated (>50%) by diarrhoea ( ≥3 watery stools/day) which is accompanied by poor outcomes. Rehydration guidelines for SAM are exceptionally conservative and controversial, based upon expert opinion. The guidelines only permit use of intravenous fluids for cases with advanced shock and exclusive use of low sodium intravenous and oral rehydration solutions (ORS) for fear of fluid and/or sodium overload. Children managed in accordance to these guidelines have a very high mortality. The proposed GASTROSAM trial is the first step in reappraising current recommendations. We hypothesize that liberal rehydration strategies for both intravenous and oral rehydration in SAM children with diarrhoea may reduce adverse outcomes. Methods An open Phase II trial, with a partial factorial design, enrolling Ugandan and Kenyan children aged 6 months to 12 years with SAM hospitalised with gastroenteritis (>3 loose stools/day) and signs of moderate and severe dehydration.  In Stratum A (severe dehydration) children will be randomised (1:1:2) to WHO plan C (100mls/kg Ringers Lactate (RL) with intravenous rehydration given over 3-6 hours according to age including boluses for shock), slow rehydration (100 mls/kg RL over 8 hours (no boluses)) or  WHO SAM rehydration regime (ORS only (boluses for shock (standard of care)).  Stratum B incorporates all children with moderate dehydration and severe dehydration post-intravenous rehydration and compares (1:1 ratio) standard WHO ORS given for non-SAM (experimental) versus WHO SAM-recommended low-sodium ReSoMal. The primary outcome for intravenous rehydration is urine output (mls/kg/hour at 8 hours post-randomisation), and for oral rehydration a change in sodium levels at 24 hours post-randomisation. This trial will also generate feasibility, safety and preliminary data on survival to 28 days. Discussion. If current rehydration strategies for non-malnourished children are safe in SAM this could prompt future evaluation in Phase III trials.

Original publication





Wellcome open research

Publication Date





Department of Paediatrics, Mbale Clinical Research Institute, Pallisa Road, Mbale, PO Box 291, Uganda.