Livestock Systems

Establishing the linkages between foodborne bacterial enteropathies and malnutrition in Timor-Leste

Children in timor leste
Project code
AUD 250,000
Research program manager
Dr Anna Okello
Project leader
Dr Ben Polkinghorne
Commissioned organisation
Australian National University
JAN 2019
JUN 2021
Project status
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This project aimed to develop hypotheses on infection pathways, with a view to undertaking a large-scale study on the sources and effects of enteropathogen infections and stunting in Timor-Leste.

Stunting (low height/length for age), wasting (low weight for height/length) and underweight (low weight for age) are internationally recognised markers of child malnutrition and are commonly observed in children in low and middle income countries. There are many socio-economic and environmental factors that contribute to malnutrition; however, one that has only been explored recently is enteropathogen infection. There is growing evidence of an association between infectious gastroenteritis and malnutrition in low-income countries.

This study sought to develop a better understanding of the relationship between malnutrition and enteropathogen infections in infants in Timor-Leste and the contribution of social, zoonotic, and environmental factors affecting their transmission. 

The research will generate hypotheses on potential sources of gastrointestinal infections, and determine the feasibility of a larger study to investigate associations between these infections and malnutrition in Timor-Leste.

The results will be provided to public health practitioners and the local community at a workshop and via dissemination of a final report.

Project outcomes

  • Developed a better understanding of the relationship(s) between malnutrition and enteropathogen infections in infants and children in Timor-Leste.
  • Determined the potential contribution of social, zoonotic, and environmental factors in human enteropathogen infections in a small sample of infants in Timor-Leste.
  • Built capacity in human and animal public health laboratory diagnosis, surveillance, and outbreak detection and investigation for enteropathogens in Timor-Leste.
map showing some countries of the Pacific, Timor-Leste, and Australia
Key partners
Australian National University
Royal Darwin Hospital/Menzies School of Health Research
Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares, Dili, Timor-Leste