Growth faltering and developmental delay in HIV-exposed uninfected Ugandan infants: a prospective cohort study

Sirajee Reshma, Andrea Conroy, Sophie Namasopo, Robert Opoka, Stephanie Lavoie, Sarah Forgie, Bukola Salami, Michael Hawkes

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Background: HIV-exposed but uninfected (HEU) infants are at increased risk of impaired early linear growth and cognitive development. We examined associations between prenatal and postnatal growth and subsequent neurodevelopment in Ugandan HEU infants, hypothesizing that early insults may explain alterations in both somatic growth and brain development.

Methods: We prospectively followed a cohort of HEU infants from birth to 18 months of age, and measured length/height, weight, head, and arm circumference longitudinally. The Malawi Development Assessment Tool (MDAT, 12 and 18 months) and the Color Object Association Test (18 months) were used for developmental assessments.

Results: Among 170 HEU infants, the prevalence of low-birth weight and failure to thrive was 7.6% and 37%, respectively. HEU infants had MDAT scores that were similar to the reference population. The mean (SD) score on the Color Object Association Test was 5.5 (3.1) compared with 6.9 (5.3) in developmentally normal children. Developmental ability at age 18 months showed strong cross-sectional correlation with weight-for-age (ρ = 0.36, P < 0.0001), length/height-for-age (ρ = 0.41, P < 0.0001), head circumference-for-age (ρ = 0.26, P = 0.0011), and mid-upper arm circumference-for-age (ρ = 0.34, P = 0.0014). There was a statistically significant correlation between birth weight and MDAT z-score at 18 months (ρ = 0.20, P = 0.010). Failure to thrive was associated with lower MDAT z-score [median -0.13 (IQR -0.75 to +0.14) versus +0.14 (IQR -0.44 to +0.63), P = 0.042].

Conclusion: Growth faltering in HEU infants was associated with lower attainment of developmental milestones at age 18 months. Our findings point to a simple screening method for identifying HEU infants at risk for developmental intervention.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalPaediatrics and Child Health, East Africa
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

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