Malnutrition and vaccination in developing countries

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2015 Jun 19;370(1671):20140141. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0141.


Malnutrition contributes to an estimated 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age in developing countries, predominantly due to infections. Malnourished children therefore stand to benefit hugely from vaccination, but malnutrition has been described as the most common immunodeficiency globally, suggesting that they may not be able to respond effectively to vaccines. The immunology of malnutrition remains poorly characterized, but is associated with impairments in mucosal barrier integrity, and innate and adaptive immune dysfunction. Despite this, the majority of malnourished children can mount a protective immune response following vaccination, although the timing, quality and duration of responses may be impaired. This paper reviews the evidence for vaccine immunogenicity in malnourished children, discusses the importance of vaccination in prevention of malnutrition and highlights evidence gaps in our current knowledge.

Keywords: children; developing countries; immunology; malnutrition; vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Malnutrition / immunology*
  • Vaccination*