Community-based evaluation of the effect of breast-feeding on the risk of microbiologically confirmed or clinically presumptive shigellosis in Bangladeshi children

Author(s): Ahmed F, Clemens JD, Rao MR, Sack DA, Khan MR, et al.


To assess the association between breast-feeding and the risk of microbiologically confirmed or clinically presumptive shigellosis, the authors performed a case-control analysis of Bangladeshi children younger than 3 years of age who were followed up for 1 month after exposure to Shigella in their residential neighborhoods. Two hundred sixty-nine cases with culture-confirmed shigellosis (n = 119) or clinically presumptive shigellosis (culture-negative dysentery, n = 150) were compared with 819 controls without Shigella diarrhea or other invasive diarrheal illnesses. The odds ratio relating breast-feeding to confirmed or presumptive shigellosis, adjusted for potentially confounding variables, was 0.48 (95% confidence interval = 0.32 to 0.72; P less than .001), suggesting a substantial protective effect. The protective association decreased with age but was still significant during the third year of life; appeared to be directly related to the degree of stunting; and was equivalent for confirmed and presumptive shigellosis. Notably, the protective association remained substantial against episodes due to Shigella which were resistant to at least one of the antibiotics customarily used for treatment of Shigella diarrhea (age-adjusted odds ratio = 0.40; 95% confidence interval = 0.22 to 0.74; P less than .01). These data suggest that breast-feeding confers a high level of protection against shigellosis throughout the first 3 years of life, especially among nutritionally compromised children, and thereby underscore the importance of promotion of breast-feeding as a central component of Shigella control programs in less developed settings.

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