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Background: Wasting and underweight in infancy is an increasingly recognised problem but consensus on optimum assessment is lacking.  In particular, there is uncertainty on how to interpret anthropometry among low birth weight (LBW) infants who may be growing normally. This research aimed to determine growth of infants from birth to two months (around age of vaccination) and the mortality risk of underweight LBW infants compared to normal birth weight (NBW) infants at two and six months age. Methods: A secondary analysis of a birth cohort of 1103 infants in Burkina Faso was conducted. Anthropometry was performed monthly from 0 to 12 months. We assessed associations with mortality using Cox proportional hazards models and assessed discriminatory values using area under receiver operating characteristics curves. Results: Eighty-six (7.8%) children died by age one year, 26/86 (30%) and 51/86 (59%) within two and six months, respectively. At age two months, weight gain since birth did not better discriminate mortality risk than current weight-for-age (P=0.72) or mid-upper arm circumference (P=0.21). In total, 227 (21%) LBW infants had increased risk of mortality: adjusted hazards ratio (aHR) 3.30 (95%CI 2.09 to 4.90).  Among infants who were underweight at two and six months, LBW infants (64% and 49%, respectively) were not at reduced risk of death compared to NBW infants (aHR 2.63 (95%CI 0.76 to 9.15) and 2.43 (95%CI 0.74 to 7.98), respectively). Conclusion: Assessing weight gain since birth does not offer advantages over immediate anthropometry for discriminating mortality risk. LBW infants who are later identified as underweight require care to help prevent mortality.

Original publication




Journal article


Gates Open Research


F1000 Research Ltd

Publication Date





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