Liggins Institute Seminar: Kwashiorkor, marasmus and future cardio-metabolic disease: developmental substrates Event as iCalendar


20 August 2014

3:30 - 4:30pm

Venue: Building 505, Seminar room 505-003

Location: 85 Park Road, Grafton, Auckland

Host: Liggins Institute

Cost: Free. No registration required.

Contact info: Elise Donovan

Contact email:

Dr Terrence Forrester

Interactions in utero between the fetal genome and the maternal environment expressing themselves as epigenetic modifications of the genome, assure the fit of the phenotype to the predicted environment.  While developmental contributions to phenotype is continuous, some phenotypic variation can be discontinuous and markedly different. Two polar clinical syndromes of severe childhood malnutrition which arise when infants experience sustained under nutrition are kwashiorkor (oedematous malnutrition) and marasmus (non oedematous). Children who present with kwashiorkor have different clinical and metabolic features from marasmics. They differ from their marasmus counterparts in the presenting severity of illness, the presence of oedema, as well as skin and hair abnormalities, and they suffer higher mortality rates. Differences in protein, amino acid and lipid metabolism are demonstrable between children with kwashiorkor and those with marasmus. 

The systematic differences in clinical and metabolic patterns observed in kwashiorkor and marasmus beg the question of developmental contributions to these different phenotypes. Indeed, marasmus is associated with lower birth weight than kwashiorkor; adult survivors of both syndromes have significant systematic differences in body composition, protein appetite, cardiovascular physiology and glucose homeostasis. Because maternal under nutrition holds the potential to create offspring phenotypically unsuited for environments of energy surfeit, there are implications for risk of obesity and comorbidities in adult offspring.

Presented by Terrence Forrester, University of the West Indies Kingston, Jamaica