Purpose of review
Environmental enteropathy has long been recognized as an important intermediary condition leading to chronic malnutrition in children in developing countries. Interest has lately renewed in this topic because of increased focus on improving the quality of lives as opposed to just saving them. Here, we provide an overview of recent scientific literature and our perspective about this disorder.
Current understanding of the disorder of environmental enteropathy is based on studies conducted decades ago. Results of some new studies on histopathologic characterization of environmental enteropathy are currently awaited. Given the challenges of diagnosing environmental enteropathy using the gold standard test of intestinal biopsy, different biomarkers have been tested as proxies of environmental enteropathy and eventually, chronic malnutrition. Available data fail to point toward a single ideal biomarker, though considerable work is still ongoing. A few interventional studies have also been conducted with improvement in environmental enteropathy as outcome.
The basic histopathology of environmental enteropathy has been defined previously, and more advanced analysis to study the pathophysiology of this disorder is currently being carried out. Many biomarkers, which represent the different mechanisms involved in environmental enteropathy, have been tested as proxies of environmental enteropathy. Although no single biomarker fits the description of an ideal biomarker yet, a few of the more promising biomarkers are being validated in different studies. Finally, the few interventions which have been tried to treat environmental enteropathy, thus far, are summarized.