Babies born prematurely and those whose growth was restricted during pregnancy have depressed immune function. Studies have shown that children of low birth weight of higher mortality rates of infection, Drs. Anders Hviid and Mads Melbye of Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Report. However, there is less evidence of a relationship between birth weight and morbidity from infection.
The researchers therefore examined the relationship between birth weight and hospitalization due to infectious disease at 1.7 million children born in Denmark from 1977 to 2004. The authors related information on the birth weight of information on hospital admissions for infectious diseases.
The investigators observed an inverse association between birth weight and the risk of infectious disease hospitalizations. The risk of hospitalization from birth to age 14 increased by 9 percent for each reduction of 17.64 ounces in weight at birth. The risk was highest in early childhood and persisted until the children were10 years.
This effect of low birth weight was observed in premature infants and babies to term and, Hviid and Melbye report in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
They note that the association between birth weight and infectious diseases of early childhood is biologically plausible as a result of depression of the immune system. However, there is no explanation of why the association persists into childhood.
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