Background: Calprotectin is a calcium and zinc binding protein, abundant in neutrophils and is extremely stable in faeces. Faecal calprotectin is used as a non-specific marker for gastrointestinal inflammation. It has a good diagnostic precision to distinguish between irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Studies have established normal concentrations in healthy children; all these studies have been performed in high-income countries. The objective of this study was to determine the concentration of faecal calprotectin in apparently healthy children aged 0-12 years in urban Kampala, Uganda.
Method: We tested 302 apparently healthy children aged, age 0-12 years (162 female, 140 male) in urban Kampala, Uganda. The children were recruited consecutively by door-to-door visits. Faecal calprotectin was analyzed using a quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Faeces were also tested for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) antigen, for growth of enteropathogens and microscopy was performed to assess protozoa and helminths. A short standardized interview with socio-demographic information and medical history was obtained to assess health status of the children.
Results: In the different age groups the median faecal calprotectin concentrations were 249 mg/kg in 0 < 1 year (n = 54), 75 mg/kg in 1 < 4 years (n = 89) and 28 mg/kg in 4 < 12 years (n = 159). There was no significant difference in faecal calprotectin concentrations and education of female caretaker, wealth index, gender, habits of using mosquito nets, being colonized with H. pylori or having other pathogens in the stool.
Conclusion: Concentrations of faecal calprotectin among healthy children, living in urban Ugandan, a low-income country, are comparable to those in healthy children living in high-income countries. In children older than 4 years, the faecal calprotectin concentration is low. In healthy infants faecal calprotectin is high. The suggested cut-off concentrations in the literature can be used in apparently healthy Ugandan children. This finding also shows that healthy children living under poor circumstances do not have a constant inflammation in the gut. We see an opportunity to use this relatively inexpensive test for further understanding and investigations of gut inflammation in children living in low-income countries.