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UVA Researchers Fight Childhood Malnutrition

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The University of Virginia has launched a global war to fight childhood malnutrition.

Researchers are going around the world to study the issue and they say the impacts could be felt right here in central Virginia.

UVA Health System researchers studied 700 children in Bangladesh and 400 in India.

They're trying to understand the cause of both malnutrition and ineffective vaccines on children.

Children are enrolled in the study within the first week of birth, and are followed until they're 2-years-old.

Field assistants visit the children in their homes and test if they're malnourished based on the child's height for his or her age.

Half the children are malnourished by the time they're 2-years-old.

Researchers say this has huge implications -- malnourished children are about 60 percent more likely to die by their 5th birthday.

"What we're learning about nutrition though I think has impacts everywhere in the world and things that we learn about how to better nourish a child in Bangladesh I think will also be able to be applied here in Charlottesville," said UVA Health System Researcher William Petri.

So far the researchers have discovered vaccines don't work as well with malnourished children.

However, they found the longer a mother exclusively breastfeeds a child, the better the vaccine response.

In the past few months the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has backed UVA's efforts with several grants.

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